People Are Mad at the Wrong Half of 'Doing God's Work with Other People's Money'

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It's no surprise that 35 Republican members of Congress are mad that an atheist group got the Air Force to take out the "God" part in an agency's motto. What's shocking is the implication that they think bragging about "other people's money" is perfectly fine. The old motto "really calls into question the integrity of the agency itself," says Jason Torpy, the atheist and military veteran who got the change made with a few unanswered emails. "Talk about the mismanagement of government funds."

The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office has changed the motto on its patch to "Doing Miracles with Other People's Money." Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia (pictured above) is demanding the Pentagon change it back, The Hill reports, calling the change a "capitulation to pressure" from an atheist group. But Rep. Randy Forbes does not appear to be annoyed in the slightest at the hilariously cynical second half of the motto, which remains completely intact. "Other people's money" is something a lot of conservatives have been talking about recently, what with stimulus packages and jobs programs and a Margaret Thatcher biopic in theaters (Socialists "always run out of other people's money," the conservative icon quipped in 1976.) Certainly, a sort of manly-man in-your-face taunting is common on military patches, even expected: "SURRENDER OR DIE," say, or "DEATH WEARS BUNNY SLIPPERS," or even "PATIENCE MY ASS I'M GONNA KILL SOMETHING." But usually that taunting is directed toward foreign fighters, not American taxpayers.

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RCO is an obscure procurement agency that was created in 2003 to speed up getting military weapons systems. Its old unit patch was unremarkable, aside from the eye-catching Latin on the bottom: "Opus Dei Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus." That translates to "Doing God's Work with Other People's Money." A few months ago, Jason Torpy, head of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, stumbled across the little logo while he was looking for contact information for Air Force chaplains. (His group wants them to offer services for atheists and humanists.) Torpy sent a few emails -- six or seven over a couple months -- saying, essentially, "I'm surprised you have a motto that says you're violating the Constitution, would you mind changing it?" he recalls. "And apparently they did." Now it reads: "Miraculi Cum Pecunia Alienum Efficemus," which means, "Doing Miracles with Other People's Money." (He pointed out the difference on MAAF's website, at left.) He didn't get a call or a returned email or anything, and didn't think too much about it. "I don't want the drama, either. This wasn't in the top 100 priorities," he says, adding his group is more focused on getting more resources and acceptance of people who believe like they do. The Atlantic Wire contacted Air Force public relations for a comment Wednesday morning and were told they were working on a statement, trying to figure out the origin of the original motto. We haven't heard back yet.

But even in this conflict, it looks like there's opportunity to find common ground. Rep. Forbes' official bio says, "Randy has rejected Washington political rhetoric and has instead focused on solutions-based leadership to tackle issues such as economic recovery, health care, tax reform and government spending… In addition, Randy has introduced legislation to improve efficiency in government agencies, and he has been named a 'Hero of Taxpayers'." We have doubts about a couple of these assertions. But if Forbes wants to cut spending -- and these are budget-cutting times -- one place to do it might be a little government agency that's pretty proud about throwing around taxpayers' money. But the RCO patch makes it clear that while atheists make it nervous, when it comes to budget cutters, it's fearless.

Mismanagement of government funds? Isn't that something everybody's against? Alas, the outrage is spreading. "In the liberal world of political correctness, I guess the motto is 'Offend the Masses,'" writes Bobby Eberle at GOPUSA. "To these liberal elites, it's much better to support a complainer than to take a stand and support the majority... This is yet another example of political correctness gone crazy, and it must stop!" But Bobby Eberle, you've written so movingly about the need to cut spending. "The federal government spends too much money! Spend less, tax less. What's so hard to understand about that?" We understand, Bobby, Why don't you make your case to the Rapid Capabilities Office?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.