WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives has passed two bills that endorse inclusion of a religious message or symbols at the country’s war memorials.
The House voted 386-26 for legislation that calls for installation of a plaque or inscription containing President Franklin Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer at the World War II Memorial in Washington. Roosevelt offered a prayer as much of the country listened by radio Dec. 6, 1944, the date of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Representatives also approved by voice vote a bill that permits religious symbols at war memorials.
Both measures gained passage Jan. 24.
Republican Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio — the sponsor of the World War II Memorial Prayer Act, H.R. 2070 — said in a written statement that adding Roosevelt’s prayer “is important because this prayer gave comfort and solace to our brave warriors who were about to make history. The President’s prayer gave them strength.”
The Obama administration has declined to support the proposal. The Bureau of Land Management said in November the bill conflicts with a current federal law and would infringe on the completed design of the World War II Memorial, which is located on the National Mall.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R.-Calif., introduced the legislation allowing religious symbols at war memorials in response to a decision last January by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that opinion, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, which is based in San Francisco, ruled that a 29-foot cross at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego is an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Symbols of faith adorn war memorials to Americans in this country and overseas, Hunter said in a written release. “In many cases, these memorials represent not just individuals, but the shared commitment and sacrifice of those who serve, and those who never made it home.”
There are 48 symbols of belief — including those for atheists, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims — authorized at the 131 national cemeteries supervised by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Hunter said. His bill would protect symbols regardless of the religion they represent.
“The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is still under attack, for its cross, and it’s a sure bet these attacks won’t stop with Mt. Soledad,” Hunter said.
The Ninth Circuit refused in October to review its three-judge panel’s decision. Supporters of including the cross at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial have said they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hunter’s bill is the War Memorial Protect Act, H.R. 290.
Here is the text of the prayer offered by President Roosevelt on D-Day:
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
“Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
“And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
“Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).