Politics & Government

E. Ky. senator reimburses state for ‘In God We Trust’ signs

Sen. Albert Robinson with "In God We Trust" sign
Sen. Albert Robinson with "In God We Trust" sign

With help from donors, an Eastern Kentucky lawmaker reimbursed the state Tuesday for the “In God We Trust” signs he got placed in legislative committee rooms in the Capitol and the Capitol Annex.

State Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, said he wants to start a project to put the signs in Kentucky courthouses and city halls on a voluntary basis.

“This is our national motto. We should remind people of our God-given rights,” said Robinson before reimbursing the state $2,811.10, including 8 percent interest, for the 13 signs that adorn various legislative committee rooms.

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.

Robinson said last fall after the signs were put up that he would raise money to reimburse the state or pay for them on his own.

Robinson said Tuesday that state Rep. Tom Riner, a Louisville Democrat and Baptist minister, paid for half of the cost and that the late Brenda Scott of Hindman contributed $200. Robinson said he would pay for the rest.

Scott’s husband, Gary Scott, said Tuesday that she “believed in the cause” Robinson was advocating.

“She donated $200 of her own money. She was a Christian and a nurse,” he said. Brenda Scott died May 26 at age 63.

Robinson said he didn’t know the Scotts. “She just saw the newspaper stories about the signs, contacted me and sent me $200,” he said.

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 last 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.

The ACLU of Kentucky has said it doesn’t think the signs should be there but it would be difficult to bring them down with legal challenges. Challenges to similar situations have not gone far because it’s the national motto. Several courts have found that the use of the motto on money and in some government settings does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

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 also has been active in posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings as part of historical exhibits and in pursuing so-called religious liberty legislation.

Jack Brammer: 502-227-1198, @BGPolitics