The lawsuit in Kentucky is working its way through the legal system contesting a 2006 state law requiring state homeland security material to recognize the necessity of faith in God for true security. State Rep. Tom Riner, an ordained Baptist minister, has defended the law out of his belief that “the safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God.”
Under KRS 39A.285, the General Assembly found:
(1) No government by itself can guarantee perfect security from acts of war or terrorism.
(2) The security and well-being of the public depend not just on government, but rest in large measure upon individual citizens of the Commonwealth and their level of understanding, preparation, and vigilance.
(3) The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln’s historic March 30, 1863, Presidential Proclamation urging Americans to pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours in American history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy’s November 22, 1963, national security speech which concluded: “For as was written long ago: ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”
The law requires such things as a plaque that reads, ”The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”
KRS 39G.010(2)(a) further requires the executive director of the KOHS to:
Publicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth by including the provisions of KRS 39A.285(3) in its agency training and educational materials. The executive director shall also be responsible for prominently displaying a permanent plaque at the entrance to the state’s Emergency Operations Center stating the text of KRS 39A.285(3)[.]
The law is being challenged by Edwin Kagin and other atheists, but recently the state court of appeals ruled in favor of the state in a 2-1 panel decision. In the decision in Kentucky Office of Homeland Security v. Christerson, the panel ruled “We disagree with the trial court’s assertion that the legislation seeks to place an affirmative duty upon the Commonwealth’s citizenry to rely on “Almighty God” for protection of the Commonwealth. The legislation merely pays lip service to a commonly held belief in the puissance of God. The legislation complained of here does not seek to advance religion, nor does it have the effect of advancing religion, but instead seeks to recognize the historical reliance on God for protection.”
The weight of authority has supported references to God on currency and in ceremonial settings. Here, however, state officers are being instructed to proclaim God’s protection over Kentucky (it is not clear God’s protection extends to nearby states like Tennessee or Virginia). As noted in a recent column, the separation of church and state appears increasingly out of vogue with American politicians. We now appear to have (or be close to having) a majority of anti-separation Supreme Court justices who favor a type of state-supported monotheism. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2005 dissent that there is a clear majority on the court that opposes “the demonstrably false principle that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion.” He noted that “the three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — which combined account for 97.7% of all believers — are monotheistic.”