'God' Back on Flag Documents
By JIM ABRAMS
October 12, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A 17-year-old Eagle Scout wanting to honor his grandfather's ''love of God, country and family'' with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol has helped remove a ban on the word ''God'' in certificates that accompany these flags.
The acting Architect of the Capitol, Stephen Ayers, said Thursday he was revising guidelines on Capitol flag certificates because it was ''beyond the scope of this agency's responsibilities to censor messages from members of Congress.''
Last week Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, protested upon learning that the Architect's office had removed the word ''God'' from the certificate of authenticity accompanying a flag 17-year-old Andrew Larochelle of
The boy had asked that the certificate read: ''This flag was flown in honor of Marcel Larochelle, my grandfather, for his dedication and love of God, country and family.''
But the Architect excised ''God'' from the inscription, saying it violated a policy, set in 2003, banning religious and political expressions on the certificates.
Lawmakers, led by Republicans, have since demanded that policy be changed.
The practice, House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ''has rightly drawn outrage from the American people, who have grown weary of endless attempts by politicians and bureaucrats to bar the word God and even the most tacit references to faith from our public institutions.''
The flag dispute led off questioning at Pelosi's weekly news conference Thursday. ''I don't think the Architect's office should be in the role of censoring what members want to say,'' she said.
Ayers, in a memo to members Thursday, says that personalized dedications are permitted. No restrictions are named except that they be limited to 300 characters. These messages are added to the certificate of authenticity stating when the flag was flown at the Capitol.
Turner said in an interview that he was asking the Architect's office to reissue the certificate for Andrew with the original wording. The issue was important, Turner said, because there are numerous references to God in the Capitol -- from the morning prayers to inscriptions on the walls -- and the Architect's policy was ''placing all of these references at risk.''
The flag program began in 1937 and today there are workers from the Architect's office constantly raising and lowering flags, sometimes indoors as well as outdoors, to meet some 100,000 requests a year. The requests are made through member offices, and most lawmakers have instructions on their web sites on how to obtain a Capitol flag.
Turner said that despite the rules change he was going ahead with proposed legislation that would permanently allow the acknowledgment of God in certificates accompanying Capitol flags.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is sponsoring an identical ''Andrew Larochelle God, Family, and Country Act of 2007'' in the Senate.
Paul Larochelle, who made the flag request with his son Andrew, said he had spoken to his son that morning and ''we're very excited that in our opinion we think the right decision has been made.'' He said his father Marcel, a veteran with strong religious convictions, ''was originally very disappointed and actually saddened'' by the dispute.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press