FRANKFORT — Just in time for Christmas — and the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly — "In God We Trust" signs have been placed in the 11 legislative committee rooms in the state Capitol and Capitol Annex.
Their display does not please the ACLU of Kentucky and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but spokespersons for the two groups said Monday that it would be difficult to bring down the signs with legal challenges.
"We just believe that government is supposed to represent everyone — the religious and non-religious," said Rob Boston, communications director for the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The national motto, established in a 1956 law signed by President Eisenhower and printed on U.S. currency since 1864, was placed last week in each of Kentucky's legislative committee rooms.
The rooms — two in the Capitol and nine in the Capitol Annex — are where state lawmakers hold public meetings to discuss and hear testimony on legislation.
State lawmakers last March approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, to place the "In God We Trust" motto in each legislative committee room.
In 2006, the Kentucky General Assembly approved displaying the national motto in the House and Senate chambers.
The motto in each legislative committee room is 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 wearing 18th-century finery and shaking hands. The phrase "United We Stand Divided We Fall" surrounds them.
Marcia Seiler, interim director of the state Legislative Research Commission, said the signs that were put up last week are temporary.
The final signs will show the more modern state seal like the ones on state flags, she said. They will feature one of the men in the seal wearing 18th-century clothes and the other dressed as a frontiersman.
The temporary signs were made at "a minimal cost" by the LRC's print shop, said Seiler. The final ones may be ready within a month and their cost is not yet known, she added.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Monday that no state tax dollars will be used to provide the signs. They will be paid for by private donations, he said.
Seiler said she decided not to wait for the final signs because she wanted them in place by the time the 2015 General Assembly begins on Jan. 6.
Robinson said he has not yet seen the posted signs, "but I'm very much satisfied from what I've been told about them."
Robinson got the legislation approved on a voice vote in the Senate as an amendment to House Bill 81. That measure would set up a work-related incentive program for employees of the Legislative Research Commission.
Robinson's amendment said the motto would be displayed "behind each chairman or chairwoman in each committee room used by members of the General Assembly in the Capitol and Capitol Annex."
Asked Monday why the signs are needed, Robinson said, "This is America. I feel like this nation was and is established by God.
"We need to show the same respect in the committee rooms that we show in the Senate and House chambers."
Robinson has been involved in other issues involving religion. He has been active in posting the Ten Commandments as part of historical exhibits in public buildings. He is working on a "religious freedom" bill he plans to present in the 2015 legislative session.
Boston, with the national church-state separation group, said there has been a trend in recent years by some politicians to get the national motto posted in government offices, particularly in local governments.
"It has been difficult to get these signs removed in court challenges," he said. "There seems to be a generality about all this with saying, 'God,' and providing a historic symbol with the motto.
"It would be easier to remove them if the signs were more specific, if they said 'In Jesus Christ We Trust' or 'In Allah We Trust.'"
Amber Duke, communications director for the state ACLU in Louisville, said a non-profit called "In God We Trust" has been "shopping these signs around to legislators in various states."
Robinson declined to say if anyone asked him to sponsor the legislation for the signs. The non-profit, based in Washington, D.C., did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Several courts have addressed the use of the motto on money and in some government settings and have found that the Constitution is not being violated, Duke said.
"But separation of church and state is one of the basic principles in our country," Duke said. "It protects both religious and non-religious persons."