Politics & Government

Kentucky taxpayers footing bill for 'In God We Trust' signs; lawmaker pledges reimbursement

The "In God We Trust" signs include the state seal. They have been posted in each  legislative committee room in the state Capitol and Capitol Annex at a cost of $2,811.
The "In God We Trust" signs include the state seal. They have been posted in each legislative committee room in the state Capitol and Capitol Annex at a cost of $2,811. Herald-Leader

FRANKFORT — Kentucky taxpayers will pay the $2,811 bill for "In God We Trust" signs placed in state legislative committee rooms, but a lawmaker said Wednesday he will raise money next year to reimburse the state or pay for them on his own.

"In the long run, taxpayers will not get stuck for their cost, even though the state will pay the bill now," said Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London.

Robinson successfully sponsored legislation during the 2014 General Assembly to place the "In God We Trust" motto in each legislative committee room in the Capitol and Capitol Annex.

His legislation, however, did not spell out how it would be paid for.

At that time, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said no state tax money would be used to buy and install the signs. Private donations would pay for them, he said.

"That's exactly what's going to happen," Robinson said Wednesday. "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 is running for re-election next year in the 21st Senate District, which includes Bath, Estill, Jackson, Laurel, Menifee and Powell counties.

The 13 signs were prepared by Jeb Advertising of Louisville. The company billed the Legislative Research Commission on Aug. 25. The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained a copy of the bill through a request under the state Open Records Act.

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, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said that he did not think the signs should be there but that it would be difficult to bring them down with legal challenges.

"Government should not favor one religion over another but we have seen challenges to similar situations not go far since it is the national motto," he said.

Several courts have found that the use of the motto on money and in some government settings does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

There has been a growing trend in some states to post "In God We Trust" signs, Aldridge added.

Kentucky's legislative committee rooms are used by state lawmakers to publicly discuss proposed legislation.

In 2006, the General Assembly approved displays of the national motto in the House and Senate chambers.

Robinson, who has been active in posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings as part of historical exhibits, said the "In God We Trust" signs are needed 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."