***Update***: Here’s a PDF of the lawsuit.
By now, you’ve heard this absurd story.
Kentucky’s first line of defense against terrorism is God.
Specifically, Homeland Security is ordered to publicize God’s benevolent protection in its reports, and it must post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center with an 88-word statement that begins, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”
State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago.
Besides being a useless defense system (and possibly shifting focus away from defense methods that could actually work), it’s an illegal promotion of religion.
American Atheists is now suing the state, with the help of “10 non-religious Kentuckians.” The lawsuit will be filed on Tuesday.
Edwin Kagin, a Boone County lawyer and the national legal director of American Atheists, said he was appalled to read in the Herald-Leader last week that state law establishes praising God – and installing a plaque in God’s honor – as the first duty of the Homeland Security Office.
The state and federal constitutions both prohibit government from getting involved in religion, Kagin said Monday.
“This is one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen in 35 years of practicing law. It’s breathtakingly unconstitutional,” Kagin said.
I agree. Though the reasoning for the lawsuit is odd:
In the suit, American Atheists argues that Homeland Security should focus on public-safety threats rather than promote religion.
The suit notes that the federal and state homeland security agencies were created as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists, and it refers to those attacks as “a faith-based initiative.”
The plaintiffs ask for the homeland security law to be stripped of its references to God. They also ask for monetary damages, claiming to have suffered sleeping disorders and “mental pain and anguish.”
“Plaintiffs also suffer anxiety from the belief that the existence of these unconstitutional laws suggest that their very safety as residents of Kentucky may be in the hands of fanatics, traitors or fools,” according to the suit.
Really? “Mental pain and anguish”?
I find that hard to believe. This wasn’t even news until a few days ago — did anyone report this story before then? The law has been in the books since 2006. What were these plaintiffs doing during the past two years? Biding their time until this news received more attention?
It seems foolish to ask for monetary damages for something like that. Hell, we’ve had President Bush at the helm for the past eight years — that’s much more of a cause for sleeplessness and anguish than God.