On March 8, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmart (R) introduced the Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage (CHURCH) Act of 2012 (H.R. 4182). His bill was co-sponsored by 27 other Republican representatives. The bill directs " 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." It has been referred to the House Committee on House Administration.
The text of "CHURCH Act of 2012" reads:
To 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 2012'.
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.
SEC. 3. USE OF EXISTING FUNDS.
Any amounts obligated or expended by the Architect of the Capitol to carry out this Act shall be derived from funds available to the Architect as of the date of the enactment of this Act.
Besides authorizing a plaque, the intent of this bill appears to be to enshrine into law that the separation of church and state is not a constitutional issue.
GovTrack gives this bill an 8 percent chance of passing.
The co-sponsors, all Republican, include:
Rep Michelle Bachmann [MN-6]
Rep Joe Barton [TX-6]
Rep Kevin Brady [TX-8]
Rep John Campbell [CA-48]
Rep Steve Chabot [OH-1]
Rep Tom Cole [OK-4]
Rep John Abney Culberson [TX-7]
Rep Charles J. "Chuck" Fleischmann [TN-3]
Rep John Fleming [LA-4]
Rep Bill Flores [TX-17]
Rep J. Randy Forbes [VA-4]
Rep Trent Franks [AZ-2]
Rep Andy Harris [MD-1]
Rep Vicky Hartzler [MO-4]
Rep Tim Huelskamp [KS-1]
Rep Duncan D. Hunter [CA-52]
Rep James Lankford [OK-5]
Rep Cynthia M. Lummis [WY]
Rep Randy Neugebauer [TX-19]
Rep Alan Nunnelee [MS-1]
Rep Joseph R. Pitts [PA-16]
Rep Reid J. Ribble [WI-8]
Rep David P. Roe [TN-1]
Rep Steve Scalise [LA-1]
Rep Jean Schmidt [OH-2, recently lost the primary)
Rep Marlin A. Stutzman [IN-3] Rep Rob Woodall [GA-7]
Some of the religiously themed art in federal buildings features ancient Greek and Roman deities, such as The Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Others do not limit religious-mythological significance strictly to the Christian faith, such as the "great lawgivers" friezes depicted at the Supreme Court, which many Christian nationalists mistake for Moses and the Ten Commandments.