Congressional committees have agreed to include references to "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance to the newly opened Capitol Visitor Center thanks in part to efforts from the Congressional Prayer Caucus and Virginian Congressman J. Randy Forbes.
Before the $621 million attraction opened last Tuesday, the Architect of the Capitol came under fire from Forbes and other conservative lawmakers like Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who protested factual inaccuracies and the omission of historical religious content in the Center.
During an initial tour of the 580,000 square feet Center in September, DeMint had noticed that the phrase "E. Pluribus Unum" - Latin for "from many, one" - was erroneously described as the national motto rather than "In God We Trust."
Forbes, who founded the Congressional Prayer Caucus, along with 108 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to the Architect of the Capitol in early Fall, expressing their concerns with inaccurate and incomplete historical religious content in the Capitol Visitor Center.
The letter correctly noted that the current national motto is "In God We Trust," and said there were "factual inaccuracies regarding Capitol church services," and references to "religion, morality, and knowledge" in the Northwest Ordinance have been excluded.
"In addition, the Capitol Visitor Center includes photos from Earth Day, an AIDS rally, various casino grounds, and factories, but it does not include photos from monumental religious events such as the National Day of Prayer or the March for Life event, attended by thousands annually, among other things," the letter said.
Following the letter, the Committee on House Administration and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee have agreed to remove "Our Nation's Motto" from the plaque describing the engraving of "E Pluribus Unum," and engrave both the "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance in stone in prominent locations within the CVC, Forbes announced on Friday.
"Historical buildings like the Capitol Visitor Center are there to tell the story of our nation. When religious history is removed from these displays, the American public is not able to observe an accurate depiction of our nation’s story," said Forbes.
Forbes was pleased with the changes, saying they will enable the thousands of visitors to the CVC each day "to experience an accurate depiction of our nation’s heritage."
DeMint, however, said "more needs to be done" to accurately tell the story of the history of America and of the Capitol.
“The current CVC displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems," the South Carolinian senator stated on the opening day of the CVC.
"This is a clear departure from acknowledging that Americans’ rights ‘are endowed by their Creator’ and stem from ‘a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,'" added DeMint.
He and other conservative lawmakers still take issue with the large engraving stating, "We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution," a quote from the 1800s American lawyer Rufus Choate that greets visitors to the CVC.
"This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation’s real history, and an offensive refusal to honor America's God-given blessings," remarked DeMint.
Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation described the CVC's portrayal of American history as "Congress' temple to liberals' 'living Constitution,'" in an opinion piece published by McClatchy last week.
"The fundamental principles of the freedom we enjoy in this country stem from our Founding Fathers’ beliefs in a higher power, beliefs put forth in the Declaration of Independence and manifest throughout our Constitution," stated DeMint.
"If we cease to acknowledge this fact, we may cease to enjoy some of the freedoms we take for granted. We must not censor historical references to God for the sake of political correctness. And we must truthfully represent the limited form of government the Constitution lays out so that our ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ So help us God.”
DeMint has suggested that future displays to the CVC include the Aitken Bible of 1782, the only Bible ever printed by an act of Congress, and the text of President Lincoln's second Inaugural and his Bible to go with the Inaugural table, which is already displayed at the CVC.
Nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition circulated by former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich that urges Congress to ensure the CVC "historically correct and accurately reflects the centrality of 'our Creator' in the founding of America and in its historic development."