Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Ambushing the Acting Architect

When you get two e-mails on the same "have you heard of this terrible deed" story, you have to take a second look (I usually delete them). Most often the stories are written by the netroots (progressives and liberals suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome) or the wingnuts (nutty conservatives looking for conspiracies). When it's about an architect, I indeed look into it.

The story going around at the speed of light is that the Acting Architect of the Capitol has deleted or removed God and religious references on official certificates and documents. Why an architect decides, I have no idea. I'm my husband's staff (letters, specs, forms, billing) and I read all his newsletters and magazines. I've never believed English was an architect's strength. Now if you google this topic, the language will be a bit more hysterical. But there does seem to be something to it.

First, who is he and what has he done to create such outrage? Stephen T. Ayers is a Bush appointee, a veteran and a degreed and certified architect serving until they find the "real" architect. The Architect retired earlier this year and the AIA has been unhappy because the word is out that this plum appointment wasn't even going to be an architect (the Librarian of Congress isn't a librarian, for instance, and the Secretary of Education may not be a teacher). "In March 2006, following a rigorous interview process before a selection panel comprised of the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives, the Comptroller General, Senate Sergeant at Arms, and senior AOC officials, Mr. Ayers was selected as the Deputy Architect/COO. In this role, he oversees approximately 2,200 employees and manages the day-to-day operations of the Agency." AOC site

Second, at least one leg of this story is planted firmly in Ohio. A story appeared in the Dayton Daily News about a teenage Eagle Scout trying to do something nice for his grandfather:
    The inscription on the certificate accompanying the flag that had flown over the United States Capitol was supposed to be a personal message from 17-year-old Andrew Larochelle to his grandfather, a veteran and a devout Catholic.

    Andrew requested the certificate say, "This flag was flown in honor of Marcel Larochelle, my grandfather, for his dedication and love of God, Country and family."

    But, the Acting Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, censored "God" from the request.

    "I was completely shocked at the way things played out ... faith is very important to our entire family," Andrew said.

    Andrew, who will be honored today for his 11-year effort to become an Eagle Scout, plans to present the flag to his grandfather during that ceremony.

    "A lot of what I learned about faith comes from him," Andrew said. "I never expected such controversy over getting my Eagle Scout rank."

    The flag request was made by Andrew's father, Paul Larochelle, through the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, who on Saturday gave the family another certificate, written just as they requested.

    "Our Nation's Capitol contains many religious references including "In God We Trust" inscribed in both the House and State chambers," Turner wrote in a letter of complaint to President Bush. "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."

    Turner said Bush is currently in the process of appointing a new Architect of the Capitol.
So, two Western Republicans, Tancredo and Musgrave, both from Colorado and conservative Christians, are leading the charge to reverse his unpopular decision by the acting architect, according to the Denver Post.
    Federal officials should allow the word "God" to appear on certificates accompanying American flags sent from the U.S. Capitol to members of the public, two Colorado lawmakers said this week.

    Reps. Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Tancredo joined several other Republicans in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting she end a policy of the Architect of the Capitol that prevents the certificates from including religious expressions.

    "This officially sanctioned hostility against religion flies in the face of the constitutionally guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion," Tancredo said. "This misguided and contradictory political correctness has got to come to an end."
Let's see if this can get resolved before all the Christmas vs. Holiday hysteria swings into action. I know that Harry "Hush Rush" Reid is good at parsing sentences and looking for hidden meanings.


PG said...

I don't know much about architecture, but from a legal standpoint Ayers is being only slightly overcautious. The government is not supposed to endorse religiosity (or lack thereof). If the Eagle Scout wanted a religious message from himself to his Grandfather, he could write it personally (and indeed his grandfather probably would have found that more endearing than a typewritten message) on the certificate. The government, however, probably shouldn't be talking about religion or politics. And at least to me, though perhaps not Reps. Musgrave and Tancredo, "God" is a religious word, not merely a ceremonial one drained of spiritual meaning.

Religious endorsements that are internal to the government (such as the opening prayer before Congress commences work, etc.) are very different from ones that are issued from the government to the citizenry. And it is not the government's job to speak for individual citizens -- it has to speak for the democratic majority without discrimination against minorities.

Anonymous said...

I am from Dayton, a normally quiet city, where I go to school with and am a good friend of Andrew Larochelle. I would just like to express my thanks to anyone who reads this for taking an interest, because this situation has brought so much awareness to the issue at hand. All this means so much to Andrew and this whole experience is just sort of surreal. Who would have thought that our friend would be appearing on national news, defending what's important to so many people in this country. We're all so proud of him and are behind him 100%. We do believe in God. We want the U.S. government to realize that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. These decisions give rights to people who don't believe in God and are trying to deny them to those who do believe in God. We are so happy that the Architect has reversed the rule and hopefully our nation will stand by this in further decisions.God Bless America! :)