SALEM — For a second consecutive year, inaction by the state Senate on efforts to replace the statue of Oregon missionary pioneer Rev. Jason Lee means that — at least for now — Lee’s image will continue to represent the state in the nation’s capital.
And the head of a ministry that seeks to call attention to the state’s Christian heritage is giving full credit to God.
“Somehow, someway, the Lord has brought another glorious victory for our state and nation,” said Rev. Aaron Auer of ROAR (Restoring Oregon’s Amazing Roots) Ministries.
Auer, who unhesitatingly describes Lee as a “national treasure,” had for a second year organized staunch Christian opposition at the recent legislative session in Salem to the proposal to replace Lee’s image in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall with a statue of the late U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield. The opponents argued that the proposal — spearheaded for a second year in a row by Rep. Vic Gilliam (R-Silverton) — denigrated the state’s spiritual roots by drawing attention away from Oregon’s Christian heritage. Lee founded the city of Salem and Willamette University and organized the first provisional government in the Oregon Country.
However, the opponents failed to prevent the state House of Representatives from approving Gilliam’s House Bill 4071 by a vote of 39 to 18. That bill would have directed the Oregon Historical Society to raise funds for a statue of Hatfield to replace Lee. But the House then sent the measure to the Senate, which failed — as it also did last year — to take action before the Legislature adjourned March 7.
Gilliam had desired to honor Hatfield, the two-term state governor and longtime U.S. senator who Gilliam considered a personal mentor as well as one of the greatest figures in Oregon history. Those who supported Gilliam’s efforts said a more contemporary figure was needed to represent the state in the nation’s capital.
Each state is allowed two statues in the U.S. Capitol hall. The other statue currently representing Oregon depicts John McLoughlin, a fur trade officer, businessman and physician known as the “Father of Oregon” and the first to govern the Oregon Country.