Making the CVC More God-Conscious

Posted May 22, 2009 at 5:40pm

Members are hoping to inject more religion into the Capitol Visitor Center with a bill that would direct the Architect of the Capitol to engrave “In God We Trust— and the words of the Pledge of Allegiance in the underground building.

The bill is the latest response to criticism that the largest-ever expansion to the Capitol does not sufficiently recognize the role religion played in the forming of the nation’s government.

But sponsors of the bill characterized the effort as nonconfrontational.

“There are number of references or appropriate religious references in the Capitol Visitor Center, but this is something I think is important,— said Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), the bill’s lead sponsor and the top Republican on the House Administration Committee. “We do have In God We Trust’ over the rostrum in the House … [and] it has a relationship to the Founding Fathers’ documents.—

The CVC’s exhibits and orientation film revolve around an unofficial motto of the United States: “e pluribus unum,— or “out of many, one.— But conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation have criticized the absence of the country’s official motto of “In God We Trust.—

When the CVC first opened on Dec. 2, some Members joined in the criticism. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said at the time that the building “fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success.—

Since then, officials have tweaked exhibits and erased any reference to the Latin phrase as the nation’s motto.

Mentions of religion are scattered throughout the center, which includes an Exhibition Hall with artifacts and interactive kiosks. CVC spokesman Tom Fontana declined to comment on “pending legislation,— but he provided a list of every religious reference.

Examples included a “large photo of a Christmas Tree— and a Bible used to administer the oath of office to Senators in the late 1800s. Numerous documents on exhibit — such as speeches by President Abraham Lincoln — also mention God.

But some Members have still taken to the floor in the past few months to address what they see as a lack of religion in the structure.

In March, Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe claimed the “Red Coats— — or Capitol tour guides — have “rewritten the history of the United States and omit religion or any reference to God.—

And earlier this month, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill that would place a plaque in the CVC that would explain the religious underpinnings for President Abraham Lincoln’s decision to free the slaves, among other things.

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), a bill sponsor and member of the House Administration panel, entered Congress after the initial controversy. But he said the bill will ensure the inclusion of something “that really probably should have been done in the very beginning of planning.—

“Look, In God We Trust’ is our national motto and the Pledge of Allegiance is said each day I hope in most schools,— he said. “It’s just important.—