CBNNews.com - WASHINGTON - Visitors to the U.S. Capitol will no longer have to be at the mercy of the elements while they wait to get into Congress.
The $621 million Capitol Visitor Center just opened for them Tuesday. But it came with some controversy.
For more insight on the lack of reference to America's faith heritage in the new center, click play to hear Rick Tyler, with Renewing American Leadership.
Eight years in the making, it's three years overdue and $360 million over budget. The more than three million members of the public who annually visit Congress faced sweltering heat or shivering cold outside in past years.
They'll now be protected 35 feet below ground, though the brand-new facility is still flooded with light because of huge skylights that let it pour in.
The Statue of Freedom sitting atop the Capitol always looked so tiny up there atop the tall dome. But now a massive model of that statue dominates the center near the entrance.
That's where the opening ceremony was held Tuesday morning, with the leaders of the Senate and House speaking.
House minority leader John Boehner thanked a group of religious believers in Congress for fighting politically-correct omissions that threatened to run God and the nation's religious heritage out of the new center.
"Let me also thank Congressman Randy Forbes and the Congressional Prayer Caucus for their efforts to insure this historic building includes appropriate references to our nation's spiritual heritage, including our national motto "In God We Trust," the Ohio Republican said.
Congressman Forbes told CBN News, "It had been such political correctness in there when it came to issues of faith that faith and the history of faith in this country were not represented at all."
Newt Gingrich's spokesman Rick Tyler complained the Visitor Center doesn't "...rightfully honor the centrality of God to our American history. It's a little like visiting the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and not finding Elvis."
In God We Trust?
The main problems as far as the prayer caucus members were concerned:
- "E Pluribus Unum" was represented as our nation's motto, though the motto is actually "In God We Trust."
"In 1956 under the Eisenhower administration they passed 'In God We Trust' as the national motto," Tyler pointed out. "That IS our national motto and it's not up to the architect and their committee to change it."
- the phrase "In God We Trust" wasn't displayed prominently.
- the table President Lincoln used to hold his Bible during his second inauguration is displayed, but without the Bible.
- the Pledge of Allegiance isn't displayed prominently.
Fighting for Change
But the prayer caucus fought for changes, and Congressman Forbes said House and Senate administrators agreed last month to some, including then national motto.
They agrreed that "'In God We Trust' was going to go back in the visitor's center, which it has," Forbes said. "That they were going to take down the reference to 'E Pluribus Unum' as the national motto, because it was just historically incorrect. That they were going to do a permanent display of the Pledge of the Allegiance to the Flag and the Declaration of Independence."
Forbes was also particularly pleased that the Capitol architect has been directed to work on a permanent display inside the center on the history of faith's role in America.