Called on Colorado Governor to Defend Annual Day of Prayer
In May of 2012, a three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that annual Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations violate the state constitution. Rep. Doug Lamborn immediately sent a letter calling on Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to appeal the decision and defend the prayer proclamations. Fourteen Members of Congress then sent a letter echoing Rep. Lamborn’s call that the ruling be appealed. In June of 2012, Gov. Hickenlooper filed a petition asking the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.
Opposed the removal of a reference to “God” from an Air Force logo due to outside pressure
Congressman Randy Forbes led 35 Members of Congress in sending a bipartisan letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz expressing concern over a decision by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) to change its logo to remove a reference to “God” after receiving complaints from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). The RCO patch, like many unit patches, included a line in Latin meant to be a clever pun understood by members of the unit. The logo previously displayed the motto "Opus Dei Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus" (Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money), but was altered to now read "Miraculi Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus" (Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money).
Defended roadside memorial crosses in Utah
Members of the Prayer Caucus joined the Family Research Council (FRC) in submitting an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States, urging it to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that held that crosses placed on Utah roadsides to honor fallen state troopers violated the Establishment Clause. In October of 2011, the Supreme Court declined to review the Tenth Circuit’s decision.
Supported the addition of the D-day Prayer to the World War II Memorial
Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.R.2070, the World War II Memorial Prayer Act, introduced by Congressman Bill Johnson. H.R. 2070 directs the Secretary of the Interior to add President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. President Roosevelt delivered the prayer to the nation on June 6, 1944, the day that American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. The bill passed the House on January 24, 2012 by a vote of 386-26.
Supported legislative prayer at the Supreme Court of the United States
Members of the Prayer Caucus signed an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States by the Family Research Council, asking the Court to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Joyner v. Forsyth County, which held that the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ prayer policy was unconstitutional because the prayers too often mentioned “Jesus.” The county’s prayer policy was based on a model policy used by other city and county councils throughout the country that has been upheld by four other federal courts since 2009. However, the Fourth Circuit held that in order to be constitutional, such prayers must not be “too sectarian.” The amicus curiae brief asked the Supreme Court to take up the case and overturn the Fourth Circuit’s decision, in hopes that the Court would bring the ruling into alignment with decisions of other federal courts and our nation’s historic legacy of permitting such prayer. In January of 2012, the Supreme Court declined to review the Fourth Circuit’s decision.
Advocated for the inclusion of prayer in the tenth anniversary commemoration of the September 11th attacks
Congressman Randy Forbes sent a letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urging him to include prayer in the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Congressman Mike McIntyre then led 31 Members of Congress in sending a letter to Mayor Bloomberg echoing the call for the inclusion of prayer. Ultimately, the ceremony included Bible passages and prayerful language.
Reaffirmed our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
Congressman Randy Forbes, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, introduced H.Con.Res.13 to reaffirm our national motto “In God We Trust,” and to encourage its display in public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions. On November 1, 2011, the legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 396-9, with 2 Members voting present.
Reversed a policy that prohibited the use of religious items during visits at Walter Reed Medical Center
Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus called for the reversal of a policy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that prohibited individuals from using or distributing religious items during visits to the hospital. The policy, implemented through a memo dated September 14, 2011, said “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” Members of the Prayer Caucus met with officials from Walter Reed to call for reversal of the policy. The memo was rescinded, an apology was posted on Walter Reed’s website, and officials are working to implement a new policy that will ensure the religious freedom of our service members.
Church in the Capitol
On Sunday, March 21, 2010, Congressman Forbes and Members of the Prayer Caucus led a church service in Statuary Hall. Services were held here, in what was once the House chamber, from 1807-1857. Between 250-300 people, including Members from both sides of the aisle, their families, and staffs were in attendance.
On December 4, 1800, Congress approved the use of the Capitol building as a church. Approval was given by both the House and the Senate, with Senate approval being given by Thomas Jefferson, then President of the Senate. While serving as Vice-President, Jefferson regularly attended church at the Capitol. Additionally, the first church service that he attended in the Capitol as President was on January 3, 1802, just two days after authoring the letter in which he used the now famous "wall of separation between church and state" phrase.
Ensured that our nation’s religious history was included in the Capitol Visitor Center
Members of the Prayer Caucus sent a letter signed by 108 Members of Congress, expressing concern about inaccurate and incomplete historical religious content in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), including the omission of the national motto “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance. After receiving assurances from the Committee on House Administration and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee that the inaccuracies and omissions would be corrected, Members supported legislation to allow the CVC to open.
Members of the Prayer Caucus also supported and voted for H.Con.Res.131, directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave our national motto, “In God We Trust,” and the Pledge of Allegiance in a permanent and prominent location in the CVC. This bill passed the House on July 9, 2009 by a vote of 410-8, with 2 voting “present,” and passed the Senate on July 10, 2009 by Unanimous Consent; the motto and the Pledge have since been added to the CVC. Members also obtained an agreement that the CVC would work on developing a permanent religious heritage display, and are still working to ensure that the display is developed.
Supported the National Day of Prayer
In April of 2010, a U.S. district court in Wisconsin held that the statute establishing the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. The following week, nearly 30 Members of Congress and leaders of faith held a bipartisan press conference, defending the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer and calling on the White House to appeal the district court’s ruling. The next day, the Obama Administration announced that it would be appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Members of the Prayer Caucus then signed onto an amicus curiae brief filed at the Seventh Circuit by the American Center for Law and Justice to affirm the constitutionality of the statute establishing the National Day of Prayer. On April 14, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed the constitutional challenge to the National Day of Prayer.
Protected veterans’ memorials
Members of the Prayer Caucus signed on to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States by the American Center for Law & Justice in the case of Ken L. Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, et al. v. Frank Buono. The case involved a veterans memorial in the Mojave National Preserve that happened to be marked with a wooden cross. The Supreme Court ruled on the case in April of 2010, permitting the cross to stay. However, the Supreme Court also sent issues back to a lower court to be resolved, so the battle is not over in the case.
Disputed an attempt to obscure references to “Laus Deo” on the Washington Monument
Members of the Prayer Caucus authored a letter to the Director of the National Park Service, demandi ng that the replica of the top of the Washington Monument be properly displayed so that the inscription “Laus Deo,” which means “Praise be to God,” would be fully visible. Additionally, the letter asked that all educational materials and signage accurately reflect America’s religious and spiritual heritage. The letter was sent with the signatures of 18 Members of Congress following reports that the display had been changed to remove any mention of the inscription, and the replica had been placed facing a wall so that it was hidden from view. Shortly after the letter was sent, the National Park Service issued a statement acknowledging the oversight and committing to redesign the display so that the Laus Deo inscription could be seen.
Fought attempts to remove God from certificates for flags flown over the U.S. Capitol
A 17-year old Eagle Scout requested that a flag be flown over the Capitol on behalf of his grandfather, and that the accompanying certificate read: “In honor of my grandfather Marcel Larochelle, for his dedication and love of God, Country, and family.” This request was denied and he received the flag and certificate with the reference to God removed. In response, bipartisan Members of the Prayer Caucus joined together to send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, requesting that the rule be changed. After repeated pressure from Members, the Architect of the Capitol reversed his decision to censor the word “God” from flag inscriptions. Members then held a ceremony to present the Eagle Scout with the certificate that he had originally requested for his grandfather, which included the word “God” in its inscription.
Additionally, Members supported H.R.3779, the Andrew Larochelle God, Family, and Country Act of 2007, which required the Architect of the Capitol to permit the acknowledgment of God on flag certificates issued at the request of a Member of the United States House of Representatives or of the United States Senate.
Worked to retain the practice of flag-folding ceremonies for veterans’ funerals
After fighting to reverse a decision to strip God from flag-folding ceremonies, Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.R.2586, which sought to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from authorizing honor guards to participate in funerals of veterans interred in national cemeteries unless the honor guards were permitted to offer families the option of having the 13-fold flag recitation performed at the funeral ceremonies.
Worked to display the Lincoln-Obama Bible and a copy of Lincoln’s second inaugural address in the Capitol Visitor Center
Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.Con.Res.149, to have the Lincoln-Obama Bible and a copy of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address placed on display in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC). On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama swore his Constitutional oath by placing his hand upon the very Bible that Abraham Lincoln used during his First Inauguration 148 years earlier. Additionally, the table used during Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was on display at that time without a copy of Lincoln’s inaugural address.
Worked to protect the ability of military chaplains to pray according to their consciences
Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.R.268 to ensure the freedom of military chaplains to close a prayer outside of a religious service according to the chaplain’s conscience.
Acknowledged the importance of the Bible in American society
Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.Con.Res.121, which called on the President to designate 2010 as “The National Year of the Bible.” President Reagan proclaimed 1983 as such and stated, “Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.”
Recognized seven decades of church services held in the U.S. Capitol
Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.R.3477, which directed the Architect of the Capitol to permanently display a plaque in National Statuary Hall to recognize the seven decades of church services that were held in the U.S. Capitol from 1800-1868.
Passed legislation to recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith
Members of the Prayer Caucus supported H.Res.847, which recognized the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world, expressed continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide, and acknowledged the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. The resolution also acknowledged and supported the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization; rejected bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and expressed the deepest respect of the House of Representatives to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.
Worked to protect the right of elected officials to express their religious beliefs
Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus supported H.R. 2104, the Public Prayer Protection Act of 2007, to protect the right of elected and appointed officials to express their religious beliefs through public prayer. The bill removed all establishment clause cases involving prayer by public officials from federal court jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of state courts.
Reversed a decision to strip God from flag-folding ceremonies for veterans’ funerals
Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus called for the reversal of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy temporarily banning flag folding recitations at military funerals that referenced God or religion, even if specifically requested by the family of the deceased. Members penned a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requesting reversal of the policy. Soon after, the Department backed off of the ban.
Defended against the criminalization of prayer
In 2009, two Florida school officials were facing fines, loss of retirement benefits, and even possible jail time for praying over a meal. Over 60 Members of Congress sent a letter to the school officials, supporting their right to pray. Members also gave floor speeches denouncing the potential criminalization of prayer. In July 2011, the school officials won back man of their constitutional rights that had been taken away.
Newdow v. Lefevre
In November of 2006, the American Center for Law & Justice filed an amicus brief on behalf of several members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus in a case challenging the constitutionality of the national motto and its inscription on American currency. On March 11, 2010, a three-judge panel sitting for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held, “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of a patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.” On April 22, 2010, Michael Newdow petitioned for a rehearing en banc (before the full panel).
Freedom From Religion Foundation v. The Congress of the United States of America
In early 2008, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the words ‘one nation, under God.’ On September 30, 2009, the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire held that those words do not run afoul of the Establishment Clause. The American Center for Law & Justice represented over 50 Members of Congress as amici in this case.
Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Ayers
In July of 2009, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit against the Architect of the Capitol to prohibit the engraving of ‘In God We Trust’ and the Pledge of Allegiance in the Capitol Visitor Center, just days after both the House and Senate passed a bill (H.Con.Res.131) directing the AOC to engrave both the motto and the Pledge. The American Center for Law & Justice filed an amicus brief on behalf of 50 Members of Congress in this case.
On September 29, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued an order granting the motion to dismiss because the court found the FFRF lacked standing. The court stated that the plaintiff did not “point to any specific congressional appropriation for the allegedly unconstitutional concurrent resolution… Challenging the resolution as a taxpayer is not sufficient to show that they sustained or are immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as the result of the resolution’s enforcement as opposed to merely suffering in some indefinite way in common with people generally… The injunction plaintiffs request here -- an order prohibiting the defendant from continuing to prominently display ‘In God We Trust’ and the Pledge of Allegiance in the Capital Visitor Center -- does not redress the taxpayer’s alleged injury.”
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Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Founder
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Contact the Congressional Prayer Caucus Amy Vitale, Amy.Vitale@mail.house.gov