'God' returns to U.S. Capitol flag certificates

Published 12:21 pm Monday, October 22, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
As I mentioned in this column previously, the Architect of the Capitol last month determined the word "God" should not appear on certificates included with flags flown over the United States Capitol. I am happy to report that this decision has been reconsidered and reversed.
Many constituents, through their congressional representative, request a flag to be flown over the Capitol to commemorate an important date or event. The Architect of the Capitol is designated with overseeing this important responsibility.
When a 17-year old from Ohio requested a flag be flown over the Capitol in tribute to his grandfather last month, he asked for the certificate to read, "for his dedication and love of God, family, and Country."
Regrettably, the Architect of the Capitol did not allow the word "God" to be included on the flag. The certificate was returned with the word "God" removed, reading "for the love of family and Country." The Architect made the decision that the use of the word "God" violates rules prohibiting religious references on the certificates.
The Architect cited his own rules for Flag Office Services, rule number eight, which states, "…religious expressions are not permitted on flag certificates." He ruled that the use of the word "God" in the phrase, "for the love of God, Country, and family" constituted a religious expression.
As news of this decision spread to other congressional offices and around the country, public outrage grew. Many congressional offices – including my own – received calls and emails from constituents wondering how this decision could be made in the United States Capitol. Our nation was founded on a belief in God, and the word "God" is carved into the walls of both chambers of Congress. The acknowledgement of God is also found in our Constitution.
I joined over 160 members of the House in writing to both the Architect and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling for an immediate repeal of this policy.
I also cosponsored H.R. 3779, the Andrew Larochelle God, Family, and Country Act, which would reverse the Architect of the Capitol's policy barring religious references in flag certificates.
Fortunately, due to the public outcry and mounting congressional opposition the Architect reversed his position, announcing that his role is "to certify that flags are appropriately flown over the U.S. Capitol, and any messages on the flag certificates are personal and between a Member of the Congress and his or her constituents."
I certainly agree and believe this incident provides a great lesson in modern democracy – the public spoke and their voices were heard.
House Votes to Sustain President's Veto of S-CHIP
As expected, the House last week voted to sustain the president's veto of H.R. 976, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, commonly known as S-CHIP.
Instead of getting to work immediately following the veto to negotiate a reasonable compromise, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the majority leadership delayed the vote on the president's veto for two weeks.
Make no mistake, almost everyone in the House agrees that S-CHIP is a critically important program that should continue to provide health care to children from poor families. The disagreement is over who should be covered.
In addition to some of the other issues I have raised in previous columns, I am also concerned that there are more than 500,000 S-CHIP eligible children not currently enrolled in the program while 700,000 adults throughout the country are receiving S-CHIP benefits in other states.
Simply put – we must ensure that poor children are covered before we expand the program to provide coverage for even more adults. Now that the president's veto has been sustained, the majority needs to stop playing politics, so we can work together to pass a bill that truly provides health-care to America's neediest children.
Immunizations Required for House
It was reported earlier this month that the House majority required Hill staffers to be immunized for several diseases before heading to Alabama and North Carolina to conduct research at a pair of NASCAR races.
The trip was planned by the House Homeland Security Committee to study public health preparedness at mass gatherings. The staffers taking part in the trips were required to be vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria and influenza.
Sadly, this is yet another example of how far removed from reality some in Congress are. Vaccines that are standard procedure for travelers to parts of Africa and Asia were required for travel to Talladega, Alabama. What's next – hazmat suits at the Iron Bowl?
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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