Theistic Kentucky Law Struck Down

It looks like the blatantly unconstitutional law in Kentucky was struck down today.  Took a while.

Check it out: Judge: Homeland Security can’t require dependence on God:

A judge on Wednesday struck down a 2006 state law that required the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to stress “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the commonwealth.”

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the law violated the First Amendment’s protection against the establishment of a state religion. Homeland Security officials have been required for three years to credit “Almighty God” in their official reports and post a plaque with similar language at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort.

I have no idea how it lasted for three years and was only noticed last November.

The law was successfully challenged by American Atheists – making me even prouder to remind everyone they’re our newest member organization here at the Secular Coalition for America!  Look for updates on their blog – at the moment they just have a quick blurb telling us to expect bragging in the near future.

I still need to find the full text of the judge’s ruling (assuming there is one online) but he said some good things.

“Even assuming that most of this nation’s citizens have historically depended upon God by choice for their protection, this does not give the General Assembly the right to force citizens to do so now,” Wingate wrote.

“This is the very reason the Establishment Clause was created: to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority,” he wrote. “The commonwealth’s history does not exclude God from the statutes, but it had never permitted the General Assembly to demand that its citizens depend on Almighty God.”

That part is good.  But in an article in a different publication, the Courier-Journal was this passage:

Wingate said it is clear that the purpose of the language wasn’t to celebrate the historical reasons for “our great nation’s survival in the face of terror and war,” but instead declared publicly that the position of the state was that an “Almighty God exists and that the function of that God is to protect us from our enemies.”

Was that an important distinction for Wingate?

It’s not as if it would have been acceptable to have a bill celebrating Almighty God’s favor as a “historical reason for our great nation’s survival in the face of terror and war.”  I can at least understand how an argument could be make for recognizing that many people believe in a god and their beliefs motivates them to act.  But it would still be absolutely inappropriate for the government to assert that a god exists and that said god is somehow a reason for our nation’s survival.  Those are theological and religious positions our secular government has no authority to make.

Not to get off track – what’s important is that the noxious bill was struck down.  A big round of applause for American Atheists!

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • KeithLM

    Seems to me that the judge is saying that he feels the purpose of the bill was to state that the government recognizes the existence of a god, and that that is not appropriate. I’m not seeing why you have an issue with that Jesse. This is a good thing, IMHO. It seems like he’s taking a broad view to the language in this bill.

  • RG

    If God’s protecting them, what do they all do there at the homeland security office?

  • Richard P

    If God’s protecting them, what do they all do there at the homeland security office?

    Human sacrifices. It’s a debt thing. Nothing is for free.

  • James H

    I wasn’t able to give the opinion a close reading (found a link from the American Atheists’ blog), but I think the judge is leaving the door open to basic ceremonial deism, which has been found not in violation of the First Amendment.

  • mikespeir

    That’s also the impression I got, KeithLM.

  • Nick

    Since the law was put into power, Kentucky has suffered through an earthquake, hurricane force winds from the remnants of Hurricane Ike, a devastating ice storm, major flooding in Louisville, and a few tornadoes every now and then.

    I’d say god is doing a fairly poor job of protecting Kentucky from himself.

  • http://. Marsha in TN

    As a native Kentuckian, I am more than glad to see this. With more churches than fast food restaurants in KY, we’re lucky there is a justice who has the guts to do this. Good for him. Let’s hope he stays on the bench.

  • thilina

    I’d say god is doing a fairly poor job of protecting Kentucky from himself.

    Don’t you know he was testing their faith.

    I can’t believe they made this a law (or even that people felt the need to make this a law) in the first place. AND IN 2006!

  • Amy G

    Yay for American Atheists!

  • http://www.twitter.com/Frinker Frink

    I still can’t believe this was a law. What fucking century are we living in?


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