The Capitol Christmas tree from 2004
Just one day after WND reported that rules for the 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree program prevented children from submitting decorations with themes such as “Happy Birthday, Jesus” and “Merry Christmas,” state and federal officials are confirming the policy has been rescinded.
WND’s report came after a letter was sent by the Alliance Defense Fund to officials in Arizona who are assembling thousands of ornaments from children for the annual Christmas tree that is erected in front of the White House.
The change was confirmed both by officials in Arizona who have a steering committee to run the program and from officials in the office of the Architect of the Capitol, who administer the program in Washington.
Jonathan Scruggs, litigation staff counsel for the ADF, had written a letter to officials questioning the propriety of limiting religious speech and a specific viewpoint in the decoration program.
“The First Amendment does not allow government officials to exclude schoolchildren’s ornaments for the capitol’s Christmas tree merely because they communicate a religious viewpoint,” he said.
Today, Eva Malecki of the office of the Architect of the Capitol told WND the ban on “religious speech” on the ornaments was an old rule that had been discontinued some years ago.
“There was some old information that was somehow distributed,” she said. “It is not the position of our agency. There are no restrictions [on the ornaments].”
She was unable to say how such “old information” had been resurrected and distributed to the steering committee in Arizona working on the program, but she confirmed it was “outdated.”
“That was old information, improperly distributed. We have rescinded those guidelines,” she said. “We apologize for any misunderstanding.”
Jim Payne, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in the southwest region, said the local organizing committee simply took the restrictions provided by the federal office regarding size and requirements for the decorations, including the limit on religious speech, and re-posted them.
“Now the Architect of the Capitol has rescinded those. We already have removed the references to religious themes from the website. We will take all items that are sent in,” he told WND.
He said all of the decorations submitted will be forwarded to Washington and used on the tree this year.
He said when his staff got the list of restrictions at first there was some question over that particular limit, but since the list came directly from Washington, it was not challenged.
A check of the website promoting the program showed the restriction, in fact, was removed. Payne also said the Forest Service would respond to ADF’s concerns.
ADF had raised the concern when it was contacted by a mother. Her child wanted to participate but felt excluded by a restriction that appeared to prevent submission of decorations with message such as “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” “Merry Christmas” and a manger scene.
“[The child] desires to convey a message about Arizona from his religious perspective via Christmas ornaments. It is well established that expression of religious beliefs is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the ADF letter said. “Religious expression is speech and is entitled to the same level of protection as other kinds of speech.”
ADF said the tree itself is an 85-foot blue spruce that will be chopped down and hauled to Washington. Four thousand of the ornaments will be on the tree itself, and 1,000 will be displayed at other locations.
The Forest Service ornament program specifies ornaments need to be 9-12 inches tall, able to withstand winter weather for three weeks, include a loop of wire for hanging, and be able to be seen 75 feet away.
This case of apparently removing God from Washington is just one in a long list of similar incidents on which WND has reported:
- The Latin words giving praise to God on a model of the tip of the Washington Monument were turned towards a wall in a visitors area so they could not be seen.
- A proclamation recognizing the 400th anniversary of Jamestown neglected to mention its Christian foundations and purposes.
- Guides at the Supreme Court were providing misinformation about the numerous references to the Ten Commandments on the building itself, among others.
The Architect of the Capitol also has been involved in similar situations. Congress decided to take action when a new $600 million visitors center was erected essentially without reference to many components of the nation’s Christian heritage.
After WND reported the center, with acres of marble floors and walls, photographs of Earth Day, information about an AIDS rally and details about industry, did not include America’s Christian heritage, members of Congress got involved.
At the time, Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., organized a letter eventually signed by 108 members of Congress expressing concern the historical content was inaccurate.
He later announced that the Committee on House Administration and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee agreed to include references to the nation’s religious history in the project.
“Historical buildings like the Capitol Visitor Center are there to tell the story of our nation. When religious history is removed from these displays, the American public is not able to observe an accurate depiction of our nation’s story,” said Forbes at the time. “We are pleased that the Committee on House Administration and Senate Rules Committee have acknowledged this important part of our nation’s history and have agreed to correct the omission of historical religious content in the Capitol Visitor Center.”
He continued, “Thousands of visitors will walk through the Capitol Visitor Center each day, and the efforts of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and the 108 Members of Congress that have joined in this issue will enable those visitors to experience an accurate depiction of our nation’s heritage.”
He said among the changes that were made in order to include the heritage were:
- References to the nation’s motto will be clarified so that visitors don’t misunderstand it to be “E Pluribus Unum” instead of “In God We Trust.”
- That the words “In God We Trust” be engraved in stone in a prominent location within the Capitol Visitor Center and that the panel describing the engraving include the proper recognition of this phrase as the national motto.
- That the Pledge of Allegiance be engraved in stone in a prominent location within the Capitol Visitor Center.
Numerous revisionist attempts to remove God and Christianity from America’s history in Washington have been documented by WND’s coverage of the work of Todd DuBord, the former pastor at Lake Almanor Community Church in California. He now serves as a special chaplain for Chuck Norris’ organizations.
Dubord was leading trips of tourists to Washington and nearby areas to review the nation’s Christian heritage when he started noticing what appeared to be a deliberate campaign to remove references to the Bible and Christianity.
He revealed when tour guides at the U.S. Supreme Court building called depictions of the Ten Commandments the “Ten Amendments,” and he followed up by disclosing a number of other apparently related efforts to wipe Christianity from U.S. history, including efforts at Jefferson’s Monticello, where tour guides told him they were unable to talk about the religious influences there.
His work is now documented at NationalTreasures.org.