Capitol Flag Controversy Reaffirms We Are One Nation Under God

The American people have grown weary of endless attempts by politicians and bureaucrats to bar the word God and other references to faith from our public institutions. 

The latest evidence that Americans have had enough came this month, when it was revealed that employees of the Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AoC) have been removing references to God from the official certificates that accompany United States flags that are flown over the Capitol and sent by Members of Congress to their constituents.  The revelation sparked a massive public outcry. 

For generations, Americans have been able to have American flags flown over the Capitol in honor of loved ones, special events, honored colleagues, fallen soldiers, community achievements, and other special people or occasions.  The flags have typically been accompanied by official certificates that include a special message of the requestor’s choosing.  Often, Americans requesting the flags have requested messages that mention God or make a reference to faith in some way.  This proud and time-honored tradition has stood for generations (the Capitol flag program started in 1937).

Like millions of other Americans, I was troubled to learn that the new management in the U.S. House of Representatives had quietly decided to change the practice.  I am grateful for the actions of Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) — a fellow Buckeye — who had the courage to speak out about this situation after he learned the word God was erased from a certificate that accompanied a flag requested by a young Eagle Scout in his congressional district who wanted to honor his grandfather. 

The practice of removing the word God from flag certificates was implemented by the Acting Architect of the Capitol, who argued that a written policy put in place by his predecessor required his employees to erase religious reference from flag certificates.  The Architect reports to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

On October 10, Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.), the senior Republican on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to the Acting Architect urging that the policy be rescinded immediately.  And I wrote a letter directly to Speaker Pelosi calling for the immediate restoration of the traditional flag certificate procedure. 

"As Speaker, you have the authority to instruct the Acting Architect to disregard the written policy and restore the longstanding practices that have been the tradition of the House for generations," I stated in my letter.  "As Speaker, you have the authority — and the opportunity — to do the right thing."

"This policy does not reflect the will of the American people," I noted.  "It was not applied in this manner under previous House majorities.  And those of us who serve in the current Congress should not allow it to stand."

As of this writing, it appears Speaker Pelosi — after initially defending the procedure — has decided to do the right thing.  On October 11, the morning after receiving my letter, she notified me of her intent to order the Acting Architect to change the controversial practice.  "I don’t think the Architect’s office should be in the role of censoring what members want to say," the Speaker said at a press conference later that morning, according to the Associated Press.

While I am pleased at this apparent decision, my colleagues and I are waiting to see the details on what the new policy will actually be — and I have made it absolutely clear we will not accept anything less than complete restoration of the original House tradition.  Rep. Turner has also announced he will move forward in offering legislation that, if passed by the House, would permanently allow references to God on flag certificates.

It’s unfortunate that this controversy had to take place, and the battle to restore the traditional practice in full may not be over yet.  But the massive public outcry over the policy banning the word God from flag certificates has provided reassuring evidence that most Americans still believe passionately that we are One Nation Under God — and the procedures of the United States Congress should continue to reflect it.