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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Flag Flap

One more bit of nonsense and misguided legalism arose in our nation’s Capitol in last week’s news.

Maybe you missed this story – the one about a young man who is an Eagle Scout, wanting to have the American flag raised in his grandfather’s honor over the Capitol building. No problem. But as soon as he asked to have a personal message included on the certificate for the flag wherein he mentioned “God,” the letter of the law struck down the lad’s use of this divine name. Fortunately for all of us this young man has moxie. He hired a lawyer and made some noise. A number of congressmen took up the banner and were successful in overturning a thirty-year-old policy which forbids the use of any reference to God, deity, or religious expression on the certificate. The person responsible for overseeing this law, and the daily raising of countless flags in someone’s memory, is called the Architect of the Capitol.

Were you aware of this law? I sure wasn’t! You have to ask yourself the question, “What business is it of anyone to interfere with the private remarks made on the certificate by the flag donor?”

I noticed that the current Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat – California, supported the ban against using religious expressions on the flag certificates. She is the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. What is happening when our elected officials, the very people we vote into office, will not even defend the simplest of our unalienable rights?

It has been argued that we have always had religious expressions used in and by the government since the earliest days of our nation’s inception. The use of “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” “In the Year of Our Lord,” and so forth, all mark a reference to the divine emanating from our nation’s hallowed halls of leadership. It is good to remember that in 1789, when George Washington was sworn in as our first president, that after repeating the oath, he leaned over and kissed the Bible.

Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican – Colorado, has expanded the flag flap to the new Capitol Visitor Center currently under construction. “We do not want our religious history sanitized from the new Visitor Center,” she said. “I expect the Capitol Visitor Center to reflect the true Christian heritage we have in this country.”

In August of this year, Andrew Larochelle, the above mentioned Eagle Scout, wrote a letter to his congressman requesting that a flag be flown over the Capitol in honor of his grandfather for his love of “God, country and family.” The written policy in use until this week when it was overturned, read, “Personalized dedications are permitted, but . . . political and/or religious expressions are not.” Representative Michael Turner, Republican – Ohio who spearheaded the campaign, welcomed the reversal. “We won a great victory for American traditions, religious freedoms and freedom of expression,” Turner said in a statement. Turner said the policy revision meant that references to God throughout the Capitol were protected.

This whole sordid affair brings up the age old argument over separation of church and state. Even the most cursory review of European history will make clear the abuses inflicted on people when religion becomes a tool of the state. Wisely, the founding fathers of the United States ensured that no such blend of secular and ecclesiastical power would be permitted in America. England ruled with such a mighty hand that the church was told what it could and could not do. This is why the pilgrims left England and traveled to Holland. Not finding Holland suitable to their culture and beliefs, they decided to try the New World in hopes of being free to worship in the manner they chose. The bottom line for our American ancestors was to give us a nation where the state would be kept out of the church – not the other way around.

What has happened over the years is that we have become apprehensive of making religious expressions for fear that we might offend someone. There is a concerted attempt in America to muffle the voices of people of faith. This is no more evident than in the current “Hate Crimes” Bill before Congress. If passed, this would open the door for ministers like me to be arrested for preaching against Biblical sins, such as homosexuality, adultery, fornication, and so on. This is what our forefathers cautioned against: the state interfering in the life of the church.

For now, the flag certificates have been restored to their proper use. But what of such restrictive bills as the Hate Crimes Bill before Congress? Will this be stopped? Will “We the people” stand up against such abuse of power? Or will we have one more freedom taken away until we awake one morning to find we no longer have any more freedoms?

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