WASHINGTON – An Ohio lawmaker on Thursday demanded that Capitol officials change a policy that resulted in the word "God" being removed from a certificate accompanying a flag being sent to one of his constituents.
Republican Rep. Michael Turner urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to review and reverse a rule followed by the Architect of the Capitol that bans the use of religious expressions on flag certificates.
That policy, Turner said in a letter to Pelosi signed by other Republicans, "puts at risk our religious freedoms and heritage."
Turner said the constituent, Paul Larochelle, and his son Andrew had requested a flag flown over the Capitol on Sept. 11 which Andrew, 17, was to give to his grandfather after being inducted into the Eagle Scouts.
They asked that the certificate of authenticity accompanying the flag read: "this flag was flown in honor of Marcel Larochelle, my grandfather, for his dedication and love of God, country and family." The Architect's office, citing its own rules, returned the certificate with the word "God" excised.
"The word 'God' is carved into the walls of both chambers of Congress," Turner said in a statement. "The Architect is the custodian of the Capitol and currently maintains several religious symbols in the building. If permitted, removing 'God' from the Capitol flag ceremonies will be the precedent for removing 'God' from the Capitol, and this cannot be permitted."
Under the flag program, begun in 1937, people may request through senators and House members one of the many flags raised and lowered over the Capitol every day. Currently, the Architect of the Capitol fulfills more than 100,000 flag requests from members every year.
Kyle Anderson, spokesman for House Administration Committee chairman Robert Brady, D-Pa., said there was concern that members had received inconsistent responses over the years on the rules governing the contents of certificates.
He said the committee was being asked to come up with a solution allowing members to send constituents the messages they wished while still providing a certificate of authenticity from the Architect.