SALEM — An image of Oregon pioneer missionary Jason Lee — and not one of the late Sen. Mark Hatfield — will continue for now to represent the state in the nation’s capital.
The Oregon Legislature last month adjourned without the Senate taking action on a bill passed by the state House to direct the Oregon State Capitol Foundation to fund-raise and commission a statue of Hatfield to replace the current statue of Lee in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.
Lead sponsor of the bill, which passed on a 36-22 vote in the House, was Rep. Vic Gilliam, R-Silverton, who said Hatfield was the greatest leader in Oregon history and that a more contemporary figure than Lee should be depicted.
But the bill was strongly opposed by some evangelical Christians who saw it as an effort to downplay Oregon’s Christian heritage. Among those speaking out against the proposal were Rev. Aaron Auer of ROAR (Reviving Oregon’s Amazing Roots) Ministries, Steven Williams of the Bend-based ministry Prepare the Way, and former Oregon resident David Crowe of Tennessee-based Restore America.
“After many telephone calls, e-mails, and visits to Oregon state senators by constituents who opposed the replacement of the statue of Jason Lee in Statuary Hall with a statue of former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, the senators thought better of passing a bill with such opposition. They let it die in committee,” wrote Crowe on his Restore America blog.
Each state is allowed two statues in the hall at the U.S. Capitol; the Lee statue has been present there for 60 years, along with that of Oregon pioneer John McLoughlin. The same statue of Lee also stands on the grounds of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.