Monday, October 15, 2007

Boehner Column: "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.

Since 1937 when the flag program began, people have been able to request to have an American flag flown over the Capitol in honor of loved ones, special events, honored colleagues, fallen soldiers, community achievements and other special people or occasions. The flag is typically paired with a certificate to commemorate the occasion or person for whom the flag was flown. Often, the messages mention God or reference faith in some way. This proud and time-honored tradition has stood for generations.

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 Dayton-area Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) who spoke out after learning that the word “God” was omitted from a certificate requested by a young Eagle Scout in his district seeking to honor his grandfather.

Shortly after learning of this situation from Rep. Turner, the senior Republican on the House Administration Committee, which oversees day-to-day functions of the U.S. House, voiced similar concerns to the Architect’s office. I followed suit by sending a letter to the Speaker of the House, who oversees the Architect’s office, asking her to immediately restore the traditional flag procedures that allow for religious expression on the certificates.

I wrote, "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… 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.”

The morning after I sent my letter, I was pleased to hear from the Speaker that she had decided to instruct the Architect’s office to reinstate those time-honored traditions allowing for religious expression on the flag certificates.

To remove any questions regarding flag procedures, Rep. Turner has announced that he will offer legislation to permanently allow references to God and expressions of faith on flag certificates. I support the legislation and believe it is an appropriate way to solidify the Speaker's decision.

It's unfortunate that this controversy had to take place, and indeed, the battle to restore the traditional practice in full may not be over yet. I have made clear that I will accept nothing less than the full restoration of this tradition. Nonetheless, 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.

No comments: