Seriously, that’s what a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressional Prayer Caucus member Rep. Louie Gohmert is called – the ‘‘Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage (CHURCH) Act of 2013.” How’s that for Congress not making any law respecting an establishment of religion?
Here’s the text of the bill, followed by a video I made on the subject a while back. While not all of the historical hogwash regarding church services in the Capitol Building that I talk about in my video is included in Gohmert’s bill, the reason for the bill is the same — to connect Thomas Jefferson to these church services and use this as evidence that Jefferson didn’t really mean it when he described the Establishment Clause as a “separation between church and state.” If Gohmert wants a plaque put up in the Capitol Building to recognize these church services, it should tell the whole story of what these services really were in the days of Jefferson and Madison — an excuse to have a weekly social event, described by people of the time, as you’ll see in my video, as not being very religious.
113th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 1586To direct the Architect of the Capitol to acquire and place a historical plaque to be permanently displayed in National Statuary Hall recognizing the seven decades of Christian church services being held in the Capitol from 1800 to 1868, which included attendees James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES April 16, 2013Mr. GOHMERT (for himself, Mr. CHABOT, Mr. BARTON, and Mr. SCALISE) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration
A BILLTo direct the Architect of the Capitol to acquire and place a historical plaque to be permanently displayed in National Statuary Hall recognizing the seven decades of Christian church services being held in the Capitol from 1800 to 1868, which included attendees James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage (CHURCH) Act of 2013′.
SEC. 2. ACQUISITION AND DISPLAY OF HISTORICAL PLAQUE RECOGNIZING THE SEVEN DECADES OF CHRISTIAN CHURCH SERVICES BEING HELD IN THE CAPITOL.
(a) Acquisition- The Architect of the Capitol shall enter into an agreement with a private entity for the design and fabrication of a historical plaque to be permanently displayed in National Statuary Hall recognizing the seven decades of Christian church services being held in the Capitol from 1800 to 1868.
(b) Design- The plaque designed and fabricated pursuant to the agreement entered into under subsection (a) shall be of such size and design as may be provided under the terms of the agreement, except that the plaque shall contain the following statement:
`The first Christian church services in the Capitol were held when the Government moved to Washington in the fall of 1800. They were conducted in the Hall of the House in the north wing of the building. In 1801, the House moved the church services to temporary quarters in the south wing, called the `Oven’, which it vacated in 1804, returning services to the north wing for 3 years. During church services, the Speaker’s podium was used as the preacher’s pulpit.
`Within a year of his inauguration, President Thomas Jefferson began attending church services in the Chamber of the House of Representatives. Throughout his administration (1801-1809), Thomas Jefferson permitted and encouraged church services in executive branch buildings. Sermons regarding the Old and New Testaments of the Bible were even conducted in the Supreme Court chambers while the judicial branch was located in the old north wing of the Capitol.
`The term `separation of church and state’, not found in the Constitution, was rather first used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists. Though Jefferson saw no problem with having nondenominational Christian services in government buildings, he affirmed that the Government should not choose an official Christian denomination. The worship services in the Government-owned House Chamber–a practice that continued until after the Civil War–were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary.
`President James Madison, the recognized author of the Constitution, followed Jefferson’s example. In keeping with Madison’s understanding of the first amendment, church services were permitted in the halls of State on Sundays during his administration (1809-1817). However, unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to attend church in the Capitol, Madison traveled in a coach pulled by four horses. The services were interrupted in 1814 after the interior was burned by the British and had to be repaired.
`Preachers of every Christian denomination preached Christian doctrine in this Chamber. On January 8, 1826, Bishop John England (1786-1842) of Charleston, South Carolina, became the first Catholic clergyman to preach in the House of Representatives. The first woman to preach before the House, and likely the first woman to speak officially in Congress under any circumstances, was the English evangelist, Dorothy Ripley (1767-1832), who conducted a service on January 12, 1806.’.
(c) Presentation Ceremony- The Architect of the Capitol is authorized to use National Statuary Hall for a presentation ceremony for the plaque on a date determined by the Architect. The Architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police Board shall take such action as may be necessary with respect to physical preparations and security for the ceremony.
(d) Display- Upon receiving the plaque designed and fabricated pursuant to the agreement entered into under this section, the Architect of the Capitol shall display the plaque permanently in a place of prominence in National Statuary Hall.