Architect of the Capitol flips on using the word ‘God’ on flag certificates

The Architect of the Capitol’s (AoC) office is reversing its policy on the use of religious language on flag certificates, after dozens of lawmakers condemned the practice of removing the word “God” from the certificates.

Stephen Ayers, acting Architect of the Capitol, said in a statement the new policy will be effective immediately and will be outlined in a memo sent to congressional offices.

“The Office of the Architect of the Capitol is a service organization. Flying the flags over the Capitol is an important constituent service for Members of Congress. When one of our services or policies doesn’t effectively serve Members of Congress or the American public, it needs to be changed immediately,” Ayers stated.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) led the largely Republican outcry to change the rule after the AoC eliminated the word “God” from a certificate mailed to one of his constituents, a 17-year-old who wished to honor his grandfather.

The AoC had said it was enforcing a rule, established in 2003, stipulating that “religious expressions are not permitted on flag certificates.”

Several lawmakers, incensed by the original decision, said they were pleased with the reversal.

“Thankfully, the architect has heard the outrage from Americans and it appears he will stop this religious censorship,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

DeMint added he still plans on introducing legislation addressing the issue.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats MORE (R-Ohio), Brian Kennedy, said the lawmaker was pleased to hear about the revised policy.

“He’s waiting to see the details, and will accept nothing less than full restoration of the original House tradition," said Kennedy.

Lawmakers had criticized the AoC in recent days, alleging the rules had been unevenly applied.

Ayers agreed, citing a recent review that revealed, “These rules have been inconsistently applied and that it is inappropriate and beyond the scope of this Agency’s responsibilities to censor messages from Members of Congress.”

In the statement, Ayers said the architect’s role is to certify that flags are appropriately flown over the U.S. Capitol, and that “messages on the flag certificates are personal and between a Member of Congress and his or her constituents.”

The change in policy came after the House Administration Committee moved Tuesday to propose a standardized certificate, which was met with frustration by Turner. The lawmaker had recently dropped a bill with more than 70 sponsors to “direct the architect to accept the inscriptions that would include the acknowledgment of God.”


House Administration panel Chairman Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) said in an e-mail he is pleased that the AoC has heard member’s concerns.

Whether this solution proves to be the most prudent remains to be seen,” the lawmaker said. “We will be watching this issue closely and ensuring that, in practice, it is not abused.”