CHURCH SERVICE HELD IN STATUARY HALL

Members of Congress at Sunday Service at the Capitol

On Sunday, March 21, history was made in the U.S. Capitol. But the history I am talking about is not related to healthcare, legislation, or one political party or the other. At 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, as Members of Congress were in session to vote on healthcare legislation, I was privileged to organize a church service in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Over 250 people, including Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, their spouses and their staffs, took part in the service. No healthcare legislation was discussed. No political agenda was present. The only matter at hand was acknowledgement of faith and recognition of our national’s spiritual heritage.

Many do not know that church services were once held in the old House chamber, which is now Statuary Hall, from 1800-1857. On December 4, 1800, Congress approved the use of the Capitol building as a church. Approval was given by both the House and the Senate, with House approval being given by Frederick Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House, and Senate approval being given by Thomas Jefferson, then President of the Senate.

In fact, while serving as Vice-President, Jefferson regularly attended church at the Capitol. Additionally, the first church service that he attended in the Capitol as President was on January 3, 1802, just two days after authoring the letter in which he used the now famous “wall of separation between church and state” phrase.

Together, Republicans and Democrats brought that historical service back to the halls of Congress and reestablished a precedent to be used for years to come. I was honored to be a part of the Sunday Service at the Capitol that was once regularly attended by presidents from Jefferson to Lincoln.

Source: Congress J. Randy Forbes, e-mail newsletter April 27, 2010

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