GOP House Judiciary Committee Resolves to Put ‘In God We Trust’ on All Federal Buildings – What Will That Cost?

If Signs Cost $10,000 Each, the Cost of Signage for 9,000 Federal Buildings Would Require $90 Million in New Republican Spending

Artist rendering of proposed GOP sign on the new federal building in San Francisco
Just four months ago the tea party Republicans won control of the House by campaigning on reducing the deficit and promising to focus on “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” But in the 12 weeks since they officially took over, what they have shown is that, despite their new “tea party” branding, this current batch is no different from the GOP pols who ran Congress in the Bush and Gingrich eras.

Like typical politicians, the tea party Republicans have not even bothered to deliver on their campaign promises. They have done nothing to create jobs — they haven’t even held a hearing on employment. And their approach to reducing the deficit is to cut programs that help the middle class, sick and elderly or that are counter to their right-wing ideology, while adamantly refusing even to discuss raising taxes on the 400 American families that control $1.27 trillion of the nation’s wealth — that’s $3.175 billion per family.

Instead, the GOP House has resorted to the same sort of ideological gimmickry that was their predecessors’ hallmark. Since they took control of the House in January, the tea party has:

  • Botched their own swearing-in ceremony
  • Read the Constitution out loud, leaving out the icky parts about slavery and accidentally skipping entire sections, requiring a hasty do-over
  • Wasted time voting to defund health-care reform without bothering to mention the “replacement” law they promised in their “Repeal and replace” campaign slogan
  • Despite repeatedly claiming, “We’re broke, we’re broke,” rammed through a $20 million subsidy for private religious schools in D.C.
  • Wasted yet more of the taxpayers’ time passing a budget that the president would never sign, in part, because it would have killed between 700,000 and 1 million jobs and arbitrarily cut $61 billion from programs without regard to their effectiveness — ordering, for example, draconian cuts to the Poison Control Centers, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, tsunami warning systems, job training programs and even the IRS, the primary government bureau that brings in revenue
  • After drastically reducing IRS funding, debated putting the IRS in charge of investigating abortions — a measure that has 221 co-sponsors
  • Defunded NPR because of yet another deceptively edited “punk’d” video by federal felon James O’Keefe
  • Killed the U.S. Capitol’s composting program

And now comes this theocratic silliness:

[Virginia] U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes’ bill to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto and encourage its display in all public schools was approved by a House committee Thursday after a sharp partisan debate.

Opponents argued it goes too far in pushing one religious belief, while supporters said it acknowledges what they consider God’s role in the success of the United States.

A little background: In 1782, the Founding Fathers chose as the motto for the United States, “E pluribus unum,” which means “Out of many, one.” In 1956, at the height of the Cold War, Congress passed a law making “In God we trust” the official motto, a move that was primarily meant as an insult to the godless communists who ran the Soviet Union. Founders Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington as well as Abraham Lincoln, all of whom believed firmly in the separation of religion and the government and none of whom were particularly religious, have been spinning in their graves ever since.

Similarly, this new bill resolution from Rep. Forbes is really just a political goad directed at Pres. Obama, who recently cited “E pluribus unum” as the national motto.

Here’s more* on the intent of the measure from Forbes himself:

“This sends a clear message to all these government departments and agencies that it’s all right to put up the motto on our buildings and in our classrooms. And I think it will stop the tide of the chilling effect over the past several years. We’re not forcing anybody to do anything. But at the same time, we want to stand there to protect people who want to say God in a public building. And we don’t want some government agency telling them that they can’t put the national motto in their buildings or classrooms.”

Rep. Forbes claims the law would not “force” the government to put signs on federal buildings, that it would merely make it “all right” to do so. But let’s not be naive about politicians’ reluctance to stand up to theocrats or about how the government works. Passing the law to approve the signs is step one. Step two would occur over the months and years after the law was passed, with enabling and funding legislation tacked on as amendments to bills totally unrelated to the signs. This legislation would lead to step three, ordering the manufacture and installation of the signs. And, obviously, if signs are created for federal buildings, they will be paid for with federal tax dollars.

Here’s how this same issue played out regarding signage on the most important federal building in the nation:

Forbes said that of all the events eroding the motto in public building, the cause “culminated in the case of the new Capitol Visitor Center.” When the U.S. Capitol’s new Capitol Visitors Center was set to open in 2008, the motto “In God We Trust” was left off the building.

They tried to keep ‘In God We Trust’ out of the visitor’s center,” said Forbes. “At first, they put in stone: ‘Our national motto is E pluribus unum.’ And then they did a mock-up of the Speaker’s podium. And where ‘In God We Trust’ is on it, they replaced it with just stars.”

Outraged members of the House and Senators intervened on the issue, which came to a vote in the House in 2009. The bill which directed the architect of the Capitol to engrave “In God We Trust” in a prominent place in the building passed by a vote of 410 to 8. The Senate passed the same bill, and as a result, “In God We Trust” was engraved in the main foyer.

There are apparently about 9,000 federal buildings around the country, so as far as “jobs, jobs, jobs,” goes, if it requires two signmakers to create and install a new sign for each building, that’s 18,000 temporary jobs, or, at the very least, work orders.

Way to create jobs, GOP! Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t it GOP dogma that government can’t create jobs?

But in terms of cutting spending this bill resolution is a loser. It doesn’t lay out the specifications for the materials to be used to make the signs, but we can’t have cheap-ass plastic signs praising God on our federal buildings — nothing is too good for God, right? At the very least, the signs should be engraved in marble or cast in brass.

There won’t be definitive figures on the cost until the Congressional Budget Office does an analysis, but let’s say each of the 9,000 signs costs $10,000 to create and install. That puts the cost to taxpayers at $90 million.

What happened to “We’re broke?”

Let’s hope the independent voters who sent the tea party to Washington are paying attention to this nonsense — the claims that the United States is bankrupt and yet billionaires can’t be taxed to help close the gap; the failed promises on jobs; the reckless budget cuts; the hours and hours wasted passing bills that are nothing more than political sop to the right-wing fringe, now including a bill resolution to post “In God We Trust” on 9,000 government-owned buildings.

Is this really what you wanted, swing voters?

Update: *Quotes from Rep. Forbes and background information were added in order to clarify his intent.

Update 2: Oops.

It appears that both Rep. Randy Forbes and the editors of the Christianist magazine Human Events misstated the nature of Forbes’ legislation in an article published in Human Events on Friday:

“We don’t view this as a partisan bill at all,” said Forbes. “I think when you see it on the floor, there will be a lot of Democrats who vote for it.”

As for passage of his bill, Forbes said that “you never want to be overly confident, but when it passed in 1956, it was unanimous in the House and unanimous in the Senate.”

Rep. Forbes misstated the nature of the measure again when he wrote this in an op-ed piece that appeared in Viriginia’s Suffolk News Herald the next day:

This week, the House Judiciary Committee once again considered a bill acknowledging “In God We Trust.” The resolution that I introduced, H.Con.Res.13, reaffirms our national motto and supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions…

If ever there was a time that we should reaffirm our national motto, it is now. I am happy to share that, yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the “In God We Trust Resolution.” The bill will now be sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

A local paper in Forbes’ district got it wrong, too — four times:

U.S. Rep. Forbes’ ‘In God We Trust’ bill sent to full House

U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes’ bill to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto and encourage its display in all public schools was approved by a House committee Thursday after a sharp partisan debate…

“I believe the Founding Fathers were moved around like men on a chessboard put in place at that time so the world could have America,” said U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a bill co-sponsor…

The most strident of the Democratic legislators who spoke out against Forbes’ bill was another Hampton Roads lawmaker: U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott.

The Newport News Democrat, whose district is next to Forbes’, said the bill violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

And national outlets ranging from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) to the award-winning gay news site, Joe.My.God, got it wrong too.


‘In God We Trust’ Bill Set for Full House Vote

A resolution re-affirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee and is now headed for a full House vote.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and two dozen other members are sponsoring the resolution.

The bill encourages public display of “In God We Trust” in all public buildings, schools, and other government institutions.


“In God We Trust” Bill Advances

Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill requiring the placement of “In God We Trust” on all “public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.” The bill was introduced by Tea Party-backed GOP Rep. Randy Forbes (VA), who in recent years introduced bills demanding that the federal government “recognize the Holy Bible as the inerrant word of God.” Forbes’ bill has a good shot of passage in the full House.

Of course, the fact that all these folks got it wrong does not excuse the fact that I also got it wrong. Forbes’ “bill” is not actually a “bill,” it’s a “resolution.”

I am sincerely sorry for the error, and the fact that I’m in such rarefied and varied company does not make it better.

I stand corrected.

On the other hand, my misstating the technical nature of the measure does not affect the core of the story, which is that Randy Forbes and other tea-party pols are betraying the swing voters who sent them to Washington by playing politics with religion and wasting time on ridiculous, albeit toothless, resolutions like this, instead of doing what they said they would do — improve the economy and create “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Update 3: The headline is corrected from the “committee votes” to “resolves.”


  • Mary
    March 22, 2011 - 5:37 pm | Permalink

    J. Bolton, I agree with you, as well as with the aforementioned for “whywontGodhealAmputees. These tea partiers are nuts.

  • Tom
    March 22, 2011 - 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Religion is the burden put on the unthinking to keep them from being troublesome. But it’s not fair to the thinkers to have to support it in any way.

  • March 22, 2011 - 6:43 pm | Permalink

    This is about as dumb as REQUIRING all school classrooms to hang a picture of George Washington. Remember that?

  • March 22, 2011 - 7:33 pm | Permalink

    This is crazy. What a waste of time and money.

  • PensitoReviewer
    March 22, 2011 - 8:49 pm | Permalink

    JonPonder — This is a pretty lame non-retraction of your sensationalist Onion-esque headline: “On the other hand, my misstating the technical nature of the measure does not affect the core of the story”

    The “core” of the problem is that you invented some $90 million dollar spending that just doesn’t exist, and even when you were called on it, you obfuscated about the how you were in “rarefied” company about the technical distinction between a bill and a resolution. I hope you can do better and try to rebuild some credibility.

    • March 23, 2011 - 5:09 am | Permalink

      So do you exist just to review Pensito Review? How cool is that? We applaud you — keep on keeping on! And watch out for Trish — she’s a bad egg.

  • AtheistSergal
    March 22, 2011 - 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Okay. If they want to put it up, we have the right to take it down.

    Fuck, maybe I *should* stop paying taxes if they violate my civil liberties like this.

    Fuck it.

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  • Dan
    March 22, 2011 - 11:04 pm | Permalink


  • Dan
    March 22, 2011 - 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Also, I don’t ever want to hear that the “atheist agenda” is being forced upon the majority. Wahwahwah. These people just do not get it… AT ALL. The best thing that could ever happen to this country would be complete secularization. Luckily though, in most of the battles in the culture war that the radical Christians have waged, they have lost. Reason and our rights, protected by the Constitution, just might win out in the end.

  • Corey Mondello
    March 23, 2011 - 3:08 am | Permalink

    Only the elimination of all conservative Christians will allow all Americans to be free and the world to no longer have to live in fear of the U.S.A.’s imperialist, terrorist holy war. The conservative ideology has never helped mankind in any way, it has not only never helped mankind in anyway, it has oppressed, murdered, raped and killed all those in it’s way to gain power. History shows us this. Fact shows us this. James Madison, the “Father of the U.S. Constitution”, along with many founders of this country, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliations, knew keeping politics and religion separate not only preserves each, but helps them flourish: “The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church and the State.”

  • Gerry
    March 23, 2011 - 5:43 am | Permalink

    “E pluribus unum” Till the end….lets keep god out of government…Fundamentalist Christians are just as dangerous as Fundamentalist Muslims or Fundamentalist Jews. We may be a nation with many Christians, but we must continue to have a Secular Government!!! That is what has made this country great. Remember, years ago it was the evil Catholics taking over our country. 50 years from now, people are going to look back at the past 20 years and say, why did they try to serve the interest of the fundamentalis?

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  • thepixinator
    March 23, 2011 - 6:42 am | Permalink

    They should just go all out and put “In God we Trust, but Verify” on all the federal buildings and give themselves an extra pat on the back. But then, the sentiment expressed would negate the premise…hmmm…

  • Kristin
    March 23, 2011 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    Waste of time. Waste of money. Violates separation of church and state.

  • stone
    March 24, 2011 - 10:03 pm | Permalink

    This is the biggest BS article I have read in a long time! Draconian cuts in the budget??? $61 million is a drop in the bucket compared to Obama’s spending spree of 2010! No one is spending $90 million on signs for on side of buildings. Who’s drummin this crap up? The writer is right…the Republicans came up with a budget that that slick Chicago lawyer b**rd president won’t sign. He’s determined to bankrupt this country first.
    This site…Penzito Review…makes me feel like I’m surrounded by a bunch of zombies just returning from the grave, all who don’t have a f**in clue about anything!!! Good-bye..good riddance!

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  • YIKES!
    March 31, 2011 - 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Is there a Death Panel for “In God We Trust”? I wish I was surprised by this, but the malignant memeplexes of religion seem to be having their way with the GOP culture-frakers.

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