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Historical Highlights

The Capitol Meditation Room

March 16, 1955
The Capitol Meditation Room Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
An Army veteran, Brooks Hays of Arkansas served eight terms in the House before being defeated by a write-in candidate, Thomas Alford.
On this day, the House passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 90, authorizing the Architect of the Capitol "to prepare a report on the origin, establishment, furnishing, and decoration" of the Capitol Meditation Room. Representative Brooks Hays of Arkansas first introduced legislation to create the room in the 83rd Congress (1953–1955). Speaker of the House Joseph Martin of Massachusetts provided room P-65 as the location. Situated to the west of the Rotunda, the Meditation Room was initially slated to open at the start of the 84th Congress (1955–1957), but was delayed due to conflict over the decor. The presence of such a room in the seat of American government elicited both commendation for an acceptance of spiritual needs and opposition from those who believed that a Meditation Room violated the Constitutional separation of church and state. Representative Hays defended the Meditation Room against such criticisms, observing that it “does not conflict with the idea that politics and religion may be combined in the life of a man or woman, for if we are lacking in spiritual resources we will not do our work well.” In an effort to remain non-denominational, the room experienced several design revisions before it was finally opened. The artisans, who created the large stained glass window, the most prominent element in the room, depicted President George Washington as its main element. Washington’s Farewell Address served as the inspiration, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

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