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CQ Politics - Senate Passes Bill to Keep ‘God' in Flag Certificates

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By Jonathan Allen

There's nothing that can deliver political unanimity like a story that combines God, the U.S. flag, an Eagle Scout and his veteran grandfather.

With little fanfare and no dissent, the Senate passed legislation (S 2198) by voice vote Tuesday night that would direct the Architect of the Capitol to allow the word "God" to be included in certificates accompanying flags flown over the Capitol at a lawmaker's request.

The measure is aimed at ensuring that there will be no repeat of the surprise that awaited teenager Andrew LaRochelle when the message accompanying a flag he had flown over the Capitol for his grandfather omitted the word God.

LaRochelle had intended to honor his grandfather's love of "God, country and family."

The controversy was resolved more than two weeks ago when acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers decided to rewrite a 2003 prohibition banning political and religious messages from flag certificates, and LaRochelle has since picked up an amended certificate.

But Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina persisted.

"This is a First Amendment victory for all people of faith. This bill will ensure that no future Architect can reverse this freedom of speech and mark a permanent end to this ridiculous censorship," DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said.

The DeMint bill is a companion measure to one introduced in the House (HR 3779) by Republican Michael R. Turner of Ohio.

It was not immediately clear whether the House would take up either measure. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., indicated that she favored the position held by DeMint and Turner about a week before the DeMint bill was introduced Oct. 18.

"I don't think that the Architect's office should be in the role of censoring what members want to say," Pelosi said.

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