Taxpayers in Kentucky are footing the bill for “In God We Trust” signs included in the state seal and installed in state Capitol and Capitol Annex legislative committee rooms.
Republican member of the Kentucky Senate for the 21st District, Albert Robinson, sponsored legislation to place the “In God We Trust” signs in legislative committee rooms during the 2014 General Assembly.
His legislation did not say who would foot the bill for the signs, but at the time of the legislation, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers stated that state tax funds would not be used to place the signs. He said the signs would be paid for through private donations.
However, partly because Robinson’s legislation did not say who would foot the bill for the signs, taxpayers ended up footing it.
But the Lexington Herald-Leader is now reporting that Robinson has said he will raise money next year to reimburse taxpayers for the 13 signs installed at a total cost of $2,811, or he will reimburse taxpayers from his own purse.
“In the long run, taxpayers will not get stuck for their cost, even though the state will pay the bill now,” he told Lexington Herald-Leader.
Recalling Senate President Stiver’s statement that the signs will be paid for through private donations, Robinson said, “That’s exactly what’s going to happen. I intend to raise the money when the next legislative session starts in January, or will pay for it myself. I have deep convictions on this.”
Robinson’s critics note that he is running for reelection next year in the 21st Senate District.
Herald-Leader was able to confirm through a copy of the bill for the seal obtained under the State Open Records Act that the 13 signs were prepared by Jeb Advertising of Louisville at a cost of $2,811.
“The national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ is on each sign, written in gold letters on a blue background atop a 13-inch by 14-inch circular state seal that bears the words ‘Commonwealth of Kentucky.’
The seal shows two men — one a frontiersman and another an 18th-century statesman — shaking hands with the words ‘United We Stand Divided We Fall’ around them.”
Michael Aldridge, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Kentucky, said he believed that the signs favor one religion over others, and thus should not be placed in legislative committee rooms. But he pointed out that previous challenges to the use of the motto in public spaces have not been successful, because the words “In God We Trust” are the national motto.
Courts have ruled in the past that use of the motto in public buildings does not violate the Constitution.
Failure of previous legal challenges has encouraged more states to post the signs, according to Aldridge.
The Kentucky Senate and House chambers have displayed the motto since 2006.
Robinson has a record of promoting displays of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and spaces. He said he sponsored the bill to post the “In God We Trust” sign in legislative committee rooms to “remind everyone in them that this nation was created under God. We need to show the same respect in the committee rooms as we do in the chambers.”
The use of “In God We Trust” signs has raised controversy across the country. Recently, stickers bearing the motto placed on police patrol vehicles in Texas drew complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, one of the organizations in the country in the forefront of the campaign for strict separation of church and state.