By Emily Krueger
Earlier today the House Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 2070, “the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2011,” by unanimous consent. The bill would add an inscription of the prayer spoken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt on D-Day to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. AU Communications Director Joe Conn covered the controversy in a Wall of Separation post last week, saying, “I don’t know which is more deplorable – that supporters of this bill are using prayer as a political weapon and fomenting religious strife among our nation’s veterans or that they’re undermining true patriotism by making it a partisan cudgel.”
As the bill now moves to the House floor after committee markup, we maintain our opposition for a number of reasons:
-- American veterans—like our currently serving troops—come from many different religious traditions and some follow no spiritual path at all. The current memorial, dedicated on May 29, 2004, represents all 16 million who served in our armed forces during World War II. It doesn’t need to be altered to represent one particular view of God, causing some veterans to feel excluded.
-- The current design was selected as part of an open, national competition and the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission approved each stage of the design process in public hearings. The process itself already allowed for input from the general public and veterans.
-- Installing a new plaque or inscription would require Congress to override the Commemorative Works Act, which sets forth the requirements for development, approval, and location of new memorials and monuments in the District of Columbia.This statute has only been overridden twice and never to add an inscription or plaque to an existing monument.
-- At a time when Congress is attempting to cut billions of dollars in federal spending, approving adding an unnecessary and costly plaque or inscription onto the WWII monument is unjustifiable.
-- Proponents of the bill are playing politics with the memorial and religion, claiming those who refuse to alter the design are anti-religious. But, refusing to override a Congressional enacted statute to alter a memorial that has been open to the public since the spring of 2004 shows no hostility to religion. Congress should not belittle the monument by using it as another ploy in the culture wars.
We’re working hard to push the House to do the right thing: to show respect for World War II veterans by keeping the monument as it was created and honoring the important contributions of all those who have served our country – whether they believe in God or not.