The Right’s Latest Gripe

Always on the lookout for anything they can churn into a controversy that suggests that God is somehow under attack here in America, the Right has latched onto the opening of the new Capitol Visitor Center, which they are accusing of intentionally slighting God and the role that Christianity played in the founding of our nation:

Protests by conservative lawmakers led architects to promise to add “In God We Trust” as the national motto and to engrave the Pledge of Allegiance in the new $621 million Capitol Visitor Center.

Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, had threatened to delay Tuesday’s opening of the marble-and-stone center that took seven years to build at triple the original cost … Despite winning a months-long battle to highlight the importance of religion in American life, DeMint said the center still misrepresents American history by downplaying the faith of the Founding Fathers and other prominent figures.

“The current Capitol Visitor Center displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history,” DeMint said. The center’s “most prominent display proclaims faith not in God, but in government.”

DeMint, rated the most conservative senator by several think tanks and advocacy groups, also protested an engraved statement near the center’s entrance: “We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.”

That quote was uttered by Rufus Choate, a Massachusetts lawyer who represented his state in the House of Representatives in the 1830s and in the Senate the following decade.

“This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation’s real history and an offensive refusal to honor America’s God-given blessings,” DeMint said.

Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, along with Republican Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia, joined DeMint in the protest.

There is likewise a new article in The National Review complaining that not only is the new center hostile to God, it’s also overflowing with “liberal bias”  

[M]any conservatives were startled by its mere existence — and they observed that it came in the wake of a trend toward the effacement of religion from the public squares of Washington. David Barton, a historian who heads WallBuilders, an Evangelical organization, had tried to call attention to it. The FDR Memorial, dedicated in 1997, contains no mention of God. Neither does the World War II Memorial, opened in 2004. Carved on one of its walls is a short D-Day message by Dwight Eisenhower, but the quote ends just before Ike seeks “the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” Barton is convinced this isn’t accidental: “It’s hard not to see the bias. Religion is completely scrubbed out” … When Sen. Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, explored the hall, he wasn’t pleased. “There was an obvious absence of any accurate historical reference to our religious heritage,” he says. He noticed the misidentification of the national motto, but the problem went much deeper — and he took it to the floor of the Senate. “In touring the CVC, I found the exhibits to be politically correct, left-leaning, and secular in nature,” he said on September 27. “There seems to be a trend of whitewashing God out of our history.” He noted that although the hall displayed a couple of Bibles, a replica of the House chamber didn’t include “In God We Trust” above the speaker’s rostrum.

Yet the exhibition hall still includes plenty of liberal bias. A section on FDR describes the New Deal, in rah-rah fashion, as “a creative burst of energy that initiated economic recovery” during the Depression. There’s a panel on the 19th-century impeachment of Andrew Johnson, but nothing comparable on the 20th-century impeachment of Bill Clinton (except a brief mention in a video). What’s more, conservative icons are almost totally missing. There’s a picture of Robert A. Taft, but no image of Barry Goldwater or Henry Hyde. At the same time, the CVC is full of dutiful tributes to female firsts: the first woman elected to the House (Jeannette Rankin), the first woman to serve in the Senate (Rebecca Felton), the first woman elected to the Senate (Hattie Caraway), the first woman elected to both the House and the Senate (Margaret Chase Smith), the first “woman of color” and first Asian-American woman elected to Congress (Patsy Mink), the longest-serving woman in Congress (Edith Nourse Rogers), and so on.

An alcove on modern history includes big pictures of an Earth Day rally, an ACT-UP protest on AIDS funding, and hippies at the Pentagon in 1967. It’s not as if the CVC made no attempt at balance: There’s also a black-and-white photo of Vietnam-era “pro-war demonstrators” that’s one-quarter the size of the full-color anti-war image.

But it seems that it is the perceived “religious hostility” of the center that is really irking the Right, so much so that the Family Research Council dedicated its most recent Washington Update to decrying it:

Religious Hostility on Display at U.S. Capitol

Today, the U.S. Capitol unveiled what one congressman has called a “$600 million godless pit,” a palatial underground visitors’ center which is at the heart of an ongoing debate over the place of America’s religious heritage in the nation’s capital. Not only does the basement of the House and Senate’s home have new galleries, theaters, and gift shops, but, as 108 congressmen rightly argue, it should also include an honest and complete portrayal of America’s religious roots.

Initially, planners had scrubbed references to “In God We Trust,” the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Founders’ faith. The Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for the renovations, came under fire from the building’s own residents, the U.S. Congress, for omitting such basic references to the Almighty. Although some of the concerns were addressed before the center opened this afternoon, dozens of leaders and organizations like FRC are still troubled by the politically correct nature of the exhibits, which are historically incorrect.