- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2007

A group of Republican lawmakers is demanding the architect of the U.S. Capitol reverse a policy that bans the use of the word “God” on flag certificates sent to constituents.

Rep. Michael R. Turner of Ohio said one of his constituents, Paul Larochelle, recently requested to receive a flag that had flown over the Capitol. Mr. Larochelle’s son had hoped to present the flag and the accompanying certificate to his grandfather, an Army veteran.

The Larochelles wanted the certificate’s inscription to read, in part: “In honor of my grandfather, Marcel Larochelle, and his dedication and love of God, country and family.” However, when the flag and the certificate arrived at Mr. Turner’s office from the architect of the U.S. Capitol’s office, which handles the Capitol flag program, the word “God” had been eliminated.

Mr. Turner said he requested an explanation from the architect’s office, which cited one of its 14 Flag Office Services rules. The rule states, “… religious expressions are not permitted on flag certificates.”

Mr. Turner — along with fellow Republican Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Randy Neugebauer of Texas and Steve Pearce of New Mexico — complained in a letter this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the architect’s office had “informed several congressional offices that the use of the word ‘God’ violates the rule.”

“This is an abuse of power, plain and simple,” Mr. Neugebauer said. “Using the nonpartisan position of maintaining the Capitol to decide what citizens can have written on their flag certificates is unacceptable.”

Stephen T. Ayers has been acting architect of the U.S. Capitol since February, when his predecessor, Alan M. Hantman, retired. Mr. Ayers’ spokeswoman was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The lawmakers are asking Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, to review the authority under which the architect’s office made the rules and that the policy “which censors our citizens’ right to expressions of their faith” be reversed.

They also point out that as the custodian of the Capitol, the architect is responsible for a building inscribed with many religious references, including “In God We Trust” in the House and Senate chambers.

“The architect’s policy is in direct conflict with his charge as well as the scope of his office and brings into question his ability to preserve a building containing many national religious symbols,” the lawmakers stated.

A spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi said a Democratic proposal may help solve the problem.

The proposal would have the architect certify that the flag was flown, and then a member of Congress could add the constituent’s message separately, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said.

“It will be resolved in the near future,” he said.

Lawmakers receive more than 100,000 requests from constituents each year for flags that have flown over the Capitol.


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