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Lawmakers bless 'God Bless America' displays

By The Associated Press

10.17.01

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WASHINGTON — The House yesterday gave its blessing to "God Bless America," urging public schools to display the expression as a show of support for the nation.

The nonbinding House resolution, passed 404-0, responds to several cases around the country where people have objected to displaying the words at schools, saying that religion and patriotism should not be intermixed.

The measure's sponsor, freshman Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., recalled standing on the steps of the evacuated Capitol building on the evening of Sept. 11, joining other lawmakers in singing "God Bless America."

"To threaten a public school for showing the same type of patriotism that we all showed on the Capitol steps is the opposite of what this country is all about," he said.

Brown mentioned a dispute in Rocklin, Calif., northeast of Sacramento, where the northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the parent of a student, asked an elementary school to substitute the American flag for a sign saying "God Bless America." The ACLU, in a statement, said the child felt upset and excluded by the religious tenor of the message.

The Rocklin school district refused the request, citing a California Supreme Court decision that found the phrase to be a traditional, patriotic phrase that did not violate constitutional separations of church and state.

The national ACLU did not comment on the House vote, but the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he was disappointed that House leaders would devote time "to a resolution like this when our country faces critical issues of national security such as airline safety and bioterrorism."

The Senate has yet to act on the resolution.

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