H. R. 4182
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 8, 2012
Mr. Gohmert (for himself, Mr. Barton of Texas, Mrs. Hartzler, Mr. Pitts, Mrs. Bachmann, Mrs. Schmidt, Mr. Stutzman, Mr. Woodall, Mr. Chabot, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Culberson, Mr. Scalise, Mr. Roe of Tennessee, Mr. Fleischmann, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Franks of Arizona, Mr. Harris, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Huelskamp, Mr. Nunnelee, Mr. Flores, Mr. Brady of Texas, Mr. Ribble, Mrs. Lummis, Mr. Lankford, Mr. Neugebauer, and Mr. Cole) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration
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.
This Act may be cited as the
Congressional Hope for Uniform
Recognition of Christian Heritage (CHURCH) Act of
Acquisition and Display of Historical Plaque Recognizing the Seven Decades of Christian Church Services Being Held in the Capitol
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.