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January 24, 2012 Print
Rep. Bill Johnson

House Passes Two War Memorial Bills

by Karla Dial

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed by voice votes two separate bills concerning expressions of faith for war veterans .

HR 2070, sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, adds President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer to the existing World War II Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. HR 290, sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., would allow symbols of veterans’ various religious faiths to be displayed on existing and future war memorials.

HR 2070 was voted unanimously out of the House Natural Resources Committee in November and enjoyed fairly broad bipartisan support in the House — with 57 cosponsors, including four Democrats. Today, even liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, spoke in favor of it from the House floor.

However, the Obama administration has objected to altering the memorial with the words of FDR’s prayer, saying to do so would “necessarily dilute this elegant memorial’s central message and its ability to clearly convey that message to move, educate and inspire its many visitors,” Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey said in written testimony to the House last autumn.

Johnson said in interviews at the time he didn’t see that one coming. In a radio address on June 6, 1944, as Allied forces invaded Europe in the move that would eventually defeat Nazi Germany, the president asked the nation to join with him in prayer for their safety and victory.

“It is unconscionable that the Obama administration would stand in the way of honoring our nation’s distinguished World War II veterans,” Johnson said. “President Roosevelt’s prayer gave solace, comfort and strength to our nation and our brave warriors as we fought against tyranny and oppression. These words should be included among the tributes to the Greatest Generation memorialized on the National Mall.”

George “Poppy” Fowler, one of Johnson’s constituents and a World War II veteran, agreed.

“I feel, with no doubt, that it would be appropriate that this prayer be inscribed in some manner at the World War II memorial,” Fowler said after testifying for it in committee. “This prayer came at a perilous time, yet it was answered in victory at a dear cost of lives. It was only by the grace of God that I returned to my family.”

Meanwhile, Hunter introduced HR 290 after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last January that the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in Southern California is unconstitutional because it is in the shape of a cross.

“Any war memorial on federal property deserves protection, regardless of the religious symbol that’s displayed,” Hunter said in a press statement. “What’s important is paying tribute to America’s veterans and fallen heroes, who have given and sacrificed so much to protect the freedoms and rights of others.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs oversees 131 national cemeteries and currently authorizes 48 different symbols of religious faith, including those for atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims.

Read HR 2070.

Read HR 290.

Read the full text of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer.