WASHINGTON – God is here to stay, say members of Congress who on Tuesday presented a 17-year-old Eagle Scout with a corrected version of a certificate that accompanied a flag that he purchased to fly over the U.S. Capitol.
Andrew LaRochelle was the first to raise questions about the Architect of the Capitol policy that censored the word “God” out of certificates verifying the flag's authenticity. The flags are purchased and flown at constituents' requests, and include personal messages that until last week could not make mention of God or other religious sentiments.
“God should never have been censored,” said Ohio Republican Rep. Michael Turner, who represents LaRochelle and processed his flag request. “Our religious freedoms, protected in the Constitution, will always be challenged, and it will take all of us to be diligent to protect these freedoms."
“This government has taken a position that God has to be separate from everything in our lives,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who resolved to restore God’s presence in America's value system. “When someone like Andrew is willing to stand up and make a point instead of being intimidated, he has intimidated those trying to intimidate him.”
Turner and others are now intent on passing new legislation protecting the use of religious expressions on certificates. Now with more than 90 co-sponsors, "The Andrew LaRochelle God, Family and Country Act of 2007" is a bipartisan move to prohibit future architects of the Capitol from censoring personal messages in flag certificates like the one LaRochelle wrote to his grandfather honoring his service in the U.S. Army.
House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that while the legislation is a positive measure, the flag censorship should never have become such a controversial issue.
“To deny Andrew the opportunity to give his grandfather a flag dedicated to his service of God and country was wrong from the start, and I hope our presence here today serves as a not-so-subtle reminder of that,” Blunt said at the press conference with Turner and a dozen other lawmakers.
Until last week, acting Architect Stephen Ayers had been enforcing the 1970s omission policy that had been largely ignored by his office until his arrival. Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week supported Ayers' decision to omit religious expressions from flag certificates and stated she would not instruct him to change the decades-old yet largely un-enforced policy barring religious sentiment from the documents. The architect is a presidential appointee whose authority is overseen by the House Administration Committee.
Several House members at the event said a significant degree of religiosity has been present in American government since its inception. They cited “In God We Trust” inscriptions on coins and above the Speaker’s dais on the House floor and phrases like “In the year of our Lord,” used to date mark the Constitution as proof of the presence of religion in public life.
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo, has expanded the flag flap to the new Capitol Visitor Center currently under construction.
"We do not want our religious history sanitized from the new visitor center," she said. "I expect the Capitol visitor center to reflect the true Christian heritage we have in this country."