- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Different Mount“We’re getting drilled here,” says Duffy Ross, director of communications for Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., after we reported on controversy swirling around Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles.The congressional Sanchez sisters — Reps. Loretta and Linda, both California Democrats — are scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the Los Angeles Catholic school, despite both being pro-choice.”Obviously, everybody is confusing the two colleges,” says Mr. Ross, who assures angry callers to his school that their commencement speaker May 18 is the college’s president, George R. Houston Jr., soon to retire after nine years at the helm of the school.If Mr. Houston’s name rings any bells, he is past senior vice president and treasurer at Georgetown University.Godspeed, GodYes, Americans have been publicly praying for the safe return of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq. And yes, Thursday was the annual National Day of Prayer, when Americans gathered in town squares and even on the steps of courthouses to pray.But don’t be fooled, one congressman says: God, or at least his name, is slowly disappearing from the public venue.”Even though the Founding Fathers spoke of ‘nature’s God’ and of the ‘Creator’ in the Declaration of Independence, the federal courts are increasingly trying to drive every vestige of faith from public life,” says Rep. Walter B. Jones — North Carolina Republican, and a Catholic and graduate of Atlantic Christian College.He cites a recent decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, barring the Virginia Military Institute “from writing and reciting a prayer before cadets eat their evening meals.”Similar story at The Citadel in South Carolina, which in light of the court’s ruling is reviewing its own prayer policy. Ditto at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has called on the academy to review its practices of leading cadets in prayer.All of this, he points out, comes on the heels of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to strike “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.”It is not just sad,” Mr. Jones says, “it is completely detestable.”New tourist stopMany Washingtonians aren’t even aware that a historic home once belonging to Frederick Douglass sits at 14th and W streets SE in Anacostia, one of this city’s poorer neighborhoods.Similarly, leaders of this nation haven’t paid the run-down home much mind.Enter House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and the Republican leadership, set to announce Thursday that they have secured a $2 million commitment to refurbish the dwelling of the father of the modern civil rights movement.Douglass was a runaway slave and served as an adviser to President Lincoln during the Civil War, later becoming a powerful advocate for desegregating schools, housing and employment, and the right to vote. In 1877, he was appointed U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia.His home, established as a historical site in 1962, averages nearly 30,000 visitors annually. Still, a recent article in the Washington Afro-American newspaper drew attention to the home’s deteriorating condition: “Brown water stains discolor the home’s antique wallpaper and ceilings. Natural and artificial light has damaged several 19th century photographs. Caretakers recently were forced to remove Douglass’ treasured library collection due to damage caused by moisture.”The speaker’s office acted immediately, and through the Interior appropriations bill and efforts of Rep. Charles H. Taylor, North Carolina Republican, was able to earmark $2 million for the home’s rehabilitation and repair. “Frederick Douglass rose from slavery to prominence when everything in society was set up to discourage him from even making the attempt. That’s what you understand when you walk through his house,” conservative commentator Armstrong Williams remarked to this column yesterday.The Republican leadership will be using the Douglass event as a starting point for initiatives geared toward empowering black Americans. They will discuss creating jobs, equal access to a quality education, the D.C. school-choice initiative, investments in college-prep programs, Pell grants and historically black colleges and universities, the charitable-giving initiative, increasing the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000, and health care initiatives.Nothing’s foreverOnce upon a time, Democrats controlled the Senate. Then, Republicans became the kings of the Hill — that is, until Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont suddenly abandoned his party, virtually in seconds handing control of the Senate back to gleeful Democrats.Now Republicans are sitting again in the majority, the current makeup: 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one independent (Mr. Jeffords). Of course, these numbers are subject to change, sometimes without warning.When Democrats ruled the Hill, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland was chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. With Republicans back in control, he’s again the ranking member.Still, Mr. Sarbanes is optimistic that he’ll become chairman again. Or so we gather from the old committee letterhead, still being distributed by Mr. Sarbanes’ office and listing the Democrat, in large letters, as the committee’s chairman.For the record, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, is chairman of the committee. For now.

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