House Committee Approves Engraving 'In God We Trust' in Capitol Visitor Center

Edwin Mora | June 10, 2009 | 10:10pm EDT
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U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, at opening, Dec. 2, 2008. (Photo Courtesy of Capitol Visitor Center)

( -- The House Administration Committee has unanimously approved a resolution directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the National Motto -- “In God We Trust” – and the Pledge of Allegiance inside the new Capitol Visitor Center (CVC). 

“While the Capitol Visitor Center did a good job in incorporating many elements, I believe there are two important (items) that were absent -- the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto ‘In God We Trust,’” Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said Wednesday. 

“I am pleased that this resolution remedies this oversight and incorporates those important parts of our national heritage into the CVC,” Lungren added.

Congress established the National Motto --“In God We Trust” -- in 1956. The words, which are found on U.S. currency, have been engraved over the Speaker’s rostrum in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1962. But they were left off the replica of the rostrum found in the new visitor center. 
The resolution approved in committee on Wednesday also corrects a mistake in the visitor center, which wrongly identified the National Motto as "E Pluribus Unum" (out of many, one).
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), came about because he, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and dozens of other conservative lawmakers noticed the omission of the motto eveb before the $621-million facility opened last December.
Conservatives were also extremely unhappy because curators removed religious language from some of the center’s historical displays. 

One display, they noted, deleted these words from Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance -- "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind . . ." -- and the words "in the Year of Our Lord" from a display of Article 7 of the Constitution.
Last September, DeMint criticized the visitor center, which he said "generally ignores" the role of faith in the founding – and life – of the nation. 
“There are a few articles in the CVC that reflect elements of faith -- two Bibles, a picture of the congressional nondenominational faith space, and the oath of office -- but I believe they grossly understate the prominent role of faith and Judeo Christian values in the history of this great building” he said in a statement," he said.

Sen. DeMint was not available for comment on Wednesday.

In 2008, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich started an online petition calling on Congress to portray “the centrality of our Creator in the founding of America” inside the visitor center. More than 16,000 have signed the petition.
Lungren’s resolution (H. Con. Res. 131) calls for the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag to be engraved in the Capitol Visitor Center, as well.

According to the resolution, the Architect of the Capitol will decide the design and location of the engraving, but it will have to be approved by the Committee on House Administration and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the committee chairman, pointed out that the Capitol Architect will not be able to begin the engraving process until the resolution passes both the House and the Senate.

“We have received recognition from the Architect of the Capitol and we are prepared to move forward, once the resolution is passed,” Brady said. 

The engraving process is still in its preliminary stage, according to Mike Coulver, a spokesman for the Architect of the Capitol, who pointed out that the real motto has already been added to the Exhibition Hall display in the form of bronze letters.

He said the resolution does not yet set a location for the National Motto to be chiselved into the walls, but he believes it would be in addition to the bronze-lettered motto already in place.  

“In my understanding there is nothing in this legislation that would affect that (bronze lettered motto), that would remain intact and in place,” Coulver told 

“The legislation as it reads is general,” he added, “but it would be my presumption that they’re talking about directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave “In God We Trust” some where other than that location.” 

The Office of the Architect of the Capitol is responsible for all improvements and maintenance of the Capitol building. 

According to the Capitol Visitor Center Web site, the center encompasses 580,000 square feet -- approximately three-quarters the size of the U.S. Capitol, which stands at 775,000 square feet. 

“The footprint of the Visitor Center is larger than the footprint of the Capitol by 18,000 square feet,” the Web site adds. “Therefore, the Visitor Center is, by far, the largest addition to the Capitol in its history.”
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