STATEMENT OF STEPHEN E. WHITESELL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS, OF THE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 290, TO AMEND TITLE 36, UNITED STATES CODE, TO ENSURE THAT MEMORIALS COMMEMORATING THE SERVICE OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES MAY CONTAIN RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
May 4, 2011
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on H.R. 290, to amend title 36, United States Code, to ensure that memorials commemorating the service of the United States Armed Forces may contain religious symbols, and for other purposes.
H.R. 290 would amend chapter 21 of title 36, United States Code, to allow religious symbols to be included as part of either a military memorial that is established or acquired by the United States Government, or a military memorial not established by the United States Government, but for which the American Battle Monuments Commission (Commission) cooperated in the establishment of the memorial. H.R. 290 also defines a military memorial as a memorial or monument commemorating the service of the United States Armed Forces, including works of architecture and art.
The National Park Service administers military memorials in the District of Columbia, which are subject to the Commemorative Works Act, and in other parts of the country. However, the Department would defer to the Commission for a position on H.R. 290 to the extent it involves memorials administered by the Commission or for which the Commission cooperated in the establishment. H.R. 290 may also affect memorials administered by the Department of Defense who should have the opportunity to offer their views. Additionally, the Department defers to the Department of Justice as to any potential First Amendment questions raised by H.R. 290.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you or any other members of the subcommittee may have.