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.”


  • Nikolai
    March 22, 2011 - 6:54 am | Permalink

    THIS is what U.S. politicians spend their time doing? WTF??? No WONDER our country is in such terrible shape!!

  • Pingback: GOP House Judiciary Committee votes to put ‘In God We Trust’ on all 9,000 federal buildings – What will that cost? at

  • Pingback: === === popular today

  • AC
    March 22, 2011 - 9:19 am | Permalink

    Buyer’s remorse, teabaggers?

  • Cletus
    March 22, 2011 - 10:15 am | Permalink

    How do I get off this planet?

  • Javier
    March 22, 2011 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    Oddly, the teapartiers will think spending money on this is perfectly acceptable.

  • SomeoneWhoCanRead
    March 22, 2011 - 10:29 am | Permalink

    This article is blatantly misleading. The bill that passed, as stupid as it is, doesn’t say anything about putting signs on federal buildings, much less allocating any money for doing so.

  • timb
    March 22, 2011 - 10:48 am | Permalink

    @SomeoneWhoCanRead: Can you really read? He’s talking about the new bill which, yes, say something about putting signs. It’s theparagraph that begins with “Similarly, this new bill from Rep. Forbes…”

    The part where he talks about the old bill is just for context.

  • me
    March 22, 2011 - 10:49 am | Permalink

    FUCK GOD!! or more accuratly, the mythological superstitions that have been brainwashing and harming humanity for centuries.

  • SomeoneWhoCanRead
    March 22, 2011 - 11:10 am | Permalink

    @timb… you’ll have to show me… all I see is this in the linked article (which is referenced just after the section you quote): “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 don’t see anything about signs anywhere except in this piece, and it’s all speculative (ie, not in the bill).

  • Dave
    March 22, 2011 - 11:45 am | Permalink

    Of course this isn’t what swing voters wanted, but the dirty little secret is the people we vote for don’t represent our interests. They get elected and play these games, fiddling as the empire burns and the average person is distracted by these kinds of sound bite legislative actions. It’s just too bad the majority of the hope and change crowd who elected Obama weren’t to busy looking at the fight (which was nothing more than a distraction) over health care to notice that Obama has essentially run Bush’s play book on foreign policy which is the root cause of our current budget problems.

    If we are going to let a neo-con in disguise like Obama take his marching orders from those who have a vested interest in maintaining sacred cow that has become the defense budget bankruptcy will be our future.

  • JBolton
    March 22, 2011 - 11:45 am | Permalink

    Hey whoa whoa whoa – Education, healthcare, personal wealth I don’t care about these things, give me mythology! Shove it down everyone else’s throat too!!!

    One more thing, taxpayer money better still be used to sponsor NASCAR race cars!!!

    Hey, where’s my beer?

  • Max
    March 22, 2011 - 11:54 am | Permalink

    I also went to look for the language in the bill. To find the actual resolution, you’ll have to track it down at the LOC.( However, I still think this article is misleading. This resolution does not call for that motto to be posted on every national building in the country. It merely says that it “supports and encourages” the public display of the motto. I don’t agree with all the God stuff, don’t get me wrong. This is clearly a jab by religious lawmakers towards the separation of church and state, and, as the author notes, could be construed as a shot at the President for making a mistake on the topic. As for all your tea party hatred, someone take the time to identify how many of those co-sponsors are actually tea-partiers, because I think you will find that the blind faith that lingers in our evangelical lawmakers existed before, and persists outside of that movement.

    The language of the resolution follows:

    H. CON. RES. 13

    Reaffirming `In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.


    January 26, 2011

    Mr. FORBES (for himself, Mr. CHAFFETZ, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. GARY G. MILLER of California, Mr. JONES, Mr. ROE of Tennessee, Mr. ROSS of Arkansas, Mrs. BLACKBURN, Mr. GARRETT, Mr. COFFMAN of Colorado, Mr. PENCE, Mr. CONAWAY, Mr. LANKFORD, Mr. SHUSTER, Mr. GINGREY of Georgia, Mr. LIPINSKI, Mr. KLINE, Mr. RAHALL, Mr. BURGESS, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, Mr. BACHUS, Mr. FLORES, Mr. ALEXANDER, and Mr. WOLF) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


    Reaffirming `In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.

    Whereas `In God We Trust’ is the official motto of the United States;

    Whereas the sentiment, `In God We Trust’, has been an integral part of United States society since its founding;

    Whereas in times of national challenge or tragedy, the people of the United States have turned to God as their source for sustenance, protection, wisdom, strength, and direction;

    Whereas the Declaration of Independence recognizes God, our Creator, as the source of our rights, `We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’;

    Whereas the national anthem of the United States says `praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation . . . and this be our motto: in God is our trust.’;

    Whereas the words `In God We Trust’ appear over the entrance to the Senate Chamber and above the Speaker’s rostrum in the House Chamber;

    Whereas the oath taken by all Federal employees, except the President, states `I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.’;

    Whereas John Adams said, `Statesmen may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.’;

    Whereas if religion and morality are taken out of the marketplace of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured;

    Whereas as President Eisenhower said and President Ford later repeated, `Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor, an American way of life.’; and

    Whereas President John F. Kennedy said, `The guiding principle and prayer of this Nation has been, is now, and ever shall be `In God We Trust.’: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress reaffirms `In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.

  • SomeoneELSEWhoCanRead
    March 22, 2011 - 11:57 am | Permalink

    Good on you for reading, SomeoneWhoCanRead.

    It took me all of a minute to find the resolution online. It only encourages the display, not requires it.

  • Max
    March 22, 2011 - 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Biased speculation:

    “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.”

  • Stephen Phillips
    March 22, 2011 - 12:02 pm | Permalink

    In God We Trust,For We Do Not Trust Government

  • Dean
    March 22, 2011 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I just want to point out this is a resolution not a bill…surely the author knows the difference?

  • SomeoneWhoCanRead
    March 22, 2011 - 12:27 pm | Permalink

    @Dean in any case it’s been pointed out by several commenters that this headline and article are essentially incorrect. On the other hand it’s getting the article massive twitter exposure:
    so he probably doesn’t care.

    How about it @JonPonder? Will you be posting a “clarification”?

  • Mike Hunt
    March 22, 2011 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Whatever happened to separation of cults and state?

  • Pingback: Pensito Review » GOP House Judiciary Committee Votes to Put ‘In God We Trust’ on All 9,000 Federal Buildings – What Will That Cost? | For Omina Quries

  • Dean
    March 22, 2011 - 12:39 pm | Permalink


    I serve as a tutor for US Government, History and civics here in TN (work at local jails and prisons helping inmates study for their GED). I’m continually amazed at the utter lack of understanding of the workings of the Government on all levels.

  • SomeoneWhoCanRead
    March 22, 2011 - 12:49 pm | Permalink

    @Dean I have to commend you for that tutoring work, that’s excellent. I know from my own children that actual knowledge of of how the govt works is not a focus in the schools; mainly because it’s not on the standardized tests, and most education these days is all about how to work the tests. It’s a real shame.

  • Yup, gotta love it
    March 22, 2011 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    USA sucks ass. i hope you all go bankrupt and die

  • ThisArticleIsSensationalistCrap
    March 22, 2011 - 1:22 pm | Permalink

    This article is laughable. First of all, the text of the resolution makes no mandate for sign installation on federal buildings. It simply encourages and reaffirms the motto as “In God We Trust” (I think it should be E pluribus, unum, but that’s irrelevant). To simply pull the $10,000 figure out of thin air and also imply that $90m will be definitely spent on installing these signs? The stupid overwhelms me. Unfortunately it seems many of your readers (and this website) lack the common sense to simply do some fact checking and to have some rational thought.

  • Emiri
    March 22, 2011 - 1:57 pm | Permalink

    This article is crap. Have you people learned nothing? Check your damn sources and don’t believe everything you read, especially when you’re reading it on random internet sites you’ve never heard of. That’s the first thing I did and unsurprisingly, this information is WRONG.

  • Pingback: GOP Jesus freaks vote to post “In God We Trust” on all 9,000 federal buildings. How much will that cost, and how many teachers’ salaries could that otherwise pay for? — whuddafug

  • Galen
    March 22, 2011 - 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The article is clearly biased (thus not true journalism), but I’m a little surprised people are concentrating more on the text of the resolution than the words of the quoted politician to prove the author wrong. Randy Forbes’ intention is scary, signed resolution or not, and he does represent tea party interests.

  • Ziggy Stardust
    March 22, 2011 - 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure it’s fair to pin this on the Tea Party. They’re still just a minority in the Republican party.

    • March 23, 2011 - 5:11 am | Permalink

      They might be a minority, but they are who Repugs are pandering to these days. It’s not about numbers, it’s about influence.

  • Saul
    March 22, 2011 - 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Scheming investment bankers irresponsibly gambled away billions of dollars and the futures of our children in pursuit of the Almighty dollar. And when their empire crumbled under the weight of their own greed our government bailed them out with billions of dollars of our money. Money that should have been used for investment in education, infrastructure, and alternative energy was blown to the wind. It was given as bonuses for the very devils that caused the crisis. Not only were they not punished; they were rewarded. Meanwhile this very same government is pumping trillions of dollars into imperial war mongering while our children, our elderly, and our infirm suffer. In the name of “balancing the budget” services that people depend on are cut in order to keep bombing civilians in Afghanistan, torturing at Guantanamo, and aiding oppressive regimes. The Corporate giant has finally devoured the national interest. Big money finances big election campaigns and big lobbying produces a big conflict of interest. The United States government has finally been bought off.

    Now we see them coming for the worker. It is not enough that the top 1% owns 90% of the wealth. They need more. They need cheaper labor so they can pay their executive more. Over the past 25 years productivity has increased several fold while the laborers earnings have remained the same. The profits go to the top while the worker fights to survive. And when we stand together to make sure that even the least of us is taken care of we are met with resistance. We are met with threats. We are met with tyranny. Corporate bought politicians defend the interests of big money and strip us of our god-given rights. Its in an Orwellian society when those who speak up for each other are silenced by their government. Not in America. Not in our America.

    In our America food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education are universal rights which are guaranteed to every man, woman, and child regardless of color, gender, sexuality, or religion. In our America governments do not spy on their own citizens. In our America children receive world class educations from teachers that are taken care of. In our America sick babies do not die from lack of insurance. In our America our mothers and fathers are do not choose between their groceries and their medicine. In our America we are all free people in the pursuit of happiness.

    So here we gather across the nation. Holding hands in the solidarity of brotherhood. Demanding a new day. In this new day we will have a democracy. A real democracy where every man has a say and is fairly treated. We can longer stay silent. People all over the country are being robbed by the corporate giant while our supposedly representative government grants millions and billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1%. America was built on the backs of the hard working everyman. Our country should not crumble under the weight of greed and special interests.

    St. Augustine once said that an unjust law is no law at all. Therefore, we have the right, if not the duty, to rebel with violence or civil disobedience. It is time to rebel.

  • Pingback: The Blog for » The problem with religion…

  • Leave a Reply to Kristin Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *