Interior Sec'y Says He Disagrees With Administration's Stand Against Adding FDR's Prayer to WWII Memorial

Penny Starr | November 17, 2011 | 7:29pm EST
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( – After being pressed by a GOP lawmaker at a House hearing on Wednesday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said he did not agree with his own department’s opposition to adding a prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Salazar said his “own personal view” was that adding a prayer recited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of D-Day would not--as an Obama official has claimed--“dilute” the “central message” of the memorial.

Salazar gave this answer after a tense exchange with Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) about HR 2070, legislation Johnson has sponsored that would direct the Interior Department to add the prayer to the memorial.

“Mr. Secretary, do you agree with your department’s assessment that by adding President Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer to the World War II Memorial that it would dilute the message of the memorial?” Johnson asked.

Johnson was referring to a Nov. 3 hearing by the House National Parks, Forest and Public Lands subcommittee on his World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2011. At that hearing, the Interior Department’s director of the Bureau of Land Management, Robert Abbey, said the memorial should not be altered.

"It is not a judgment as to the merit of this new commemoration, simply that altering the Memorial in this way, as proposed in HR 2070, will necessarily dilute this elegant memorial's central message and its ability to clearly convey that message to move, educate, and inspire its many visitors," Abbey said in written testimony.

Abbey was also on the panel at Wednesday’s hearing.

Johnson asked Salazar five times whether he agreed with Abbey and the Obama administration’s stand before Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, which held the hearing, suspended Johnson’s line of questioning.

“But I do think, Mr. Secretary, there needs to be a response to that because there clearly is a conflict here,” Hastings said.

“If I may, let me answer that in a more specific way to Congressman Johnson,” Salazar said. “The first thing is, in my own personal view, it does not” dilute the message of the Memorial.

Salazar added that it would take an act of Congress to add the prayer to the Memorial.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“And that’s what we’re going to give you,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re trying to give you here,” with legislation.

The prayer says, in part:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”

Johnson’s passion was clear in a Nov. 3 statement that he issued on the subject.

“It is unconscionable that the Obama administration would stand in the way of honoring our nation’s distinguished World War II veterans,” Johnson said. “President Roosevelt’s prayer gave solace, comfort and strength to our nation and our brave warriors as we fought against tyranny and oppression.”

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