American Atheists Asks Supreme Court to Review Kentucky’s ‘God Protects Us From the Terrorists’ Law

Back in 2006, politicians in Kentucky passed a law that required the state’s Department of Homeland Security to declare in its training materials that security was unattainable without reliance on “Almighty God.” It also required a plaque to be installed at the Department’s entrance saying as much.

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.’”

It may sound innocuous, but failure for the Homeland Security director to comply with the law would mean spending “up to twelve months in the county jail.”

American Atheists sued the state at the time. A lower court judge was on their side, but an Appeals Court reversed that decision with a 2-1 vote. Then, AA went to the state’s Supreme Court… but last August, the court said it didn’t even want to look at the case.

Which brings us to last week.

AA asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its case (PDF).

[AA attorney Edwin] Kagin said, “This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen.”

It’s unlikely the Supreme Court will hear the case — most requests for a hearing get turned down — but it’s worth fighting for. We’re in big trouble if our government requires us to acknowledge that God is the person keeping us safe and that we can’t be safe without his protection.

If God was so good at keeping us safe, we wouldn’t need a Department of Homeland Security in the first place.

Plus, it turns out the enemies believe in a God, too… but there I go again, trying to be logical when assessing the actions of religious politicians.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Ggsillars

    Presumably, September 11, 2001 happened to be God’s day off…

  • Jeff P

    He does need to rest from time to time. It isn’t easy placing images of Jesus on toast and all.

    Unfortunately the court will probably dodge it because most of them are for ceremonial Deism. Although, this new law smacks of theism.

  • Don Gwinn

    Well, as silly as this sounds, logic actually doesn’t apply here in any but a legal sense.  In other words, it wouldn’t be illegal for the KDHS to put material that was demonstrably illogical or fallacious into their training materials.  
    The ONLY issue for a court is whether the KDHS has unconstitutionally promoted or endorsed a religious view.  

    On the other hand, limiting the question to that one seems like it would make the answer obvious.  I’d be fascinated to read the decisions so far . . . how in the world did the appellate court find a way to call that constitutional?

  • James Buchy

    So basically they are saying “god, please protect us from people who are doing what you want them to do”. Are they THAT stupid? Yeah, I know…silly question.

  • William Santagata

    The government is allowed to make reference to a generic concept of a Supreme Being in a ceremonial manner. This is what the Commonwealth is doing here and it is perfectly constitutional. The Supreme Court will deny review of this case.

  • david e

    Twelve months in jail for not making a religious proclamation?  This isn’t remotely like the cases where the idea of ceremonial deism came up.  It’s a direct attack on religious freedom.  It’ll be shameful if they don’t take up this case.

  • SeekerLancer

    Seriously, a prison sentence for not complying with a religious demand? That’s downright theocratic.

  • david e

    Twelve months in jail for not making a religious proclamation?  This isn’t remotely like the cases where the idea of ceremonial deism came up.  It’s a direct attack on the religious freedom of government employees.

  • William Santagata

    The government can require its officers to make certain proclamations, but not private citizens or even government officers when they are in their capacity as private citizens. In any event, the only person who would have standing to sue under this *Free Speech Clause* objection would be the person required to make the proclamation. I also have concerns about the validity of a state government passing a mandate onto a federal officer…but likewise, American Atheists would have no standing to sue on those grounds.

  • observer

    Wow, and extremists say that, atheists who don’t believe in God are being arrogantly prideful of themselves.

    “Plus, it turns out the enemies believe in a God, too”

    Well the enemies’ God is false though, OUR God is the true god; And we should  know because OUR holy book says so.

  • facebook-1615224910

    American Atheists does not have standing, but the plaintiffs who are citizens of Kentucky do have standing. 

  • Jerome Haltom

    Ya’ll have to remember, that ultimately attempting prosecution for this would be struck down. We have tons of laws on the books that are clearly restricted, and yet still there. The problem with getting this law struck down is as simple as “it’s already struck down.” It can’t be enforced.

  • Stev84

    “Ceremonial deism” is a load of BS though. A legal fiction that is neither ceremonial, nor deistic.

  • Coyotenose

     No, the government cannot require its officers to make religious proclamations. That is the basic point of the First Amendment. And any citizen affected by this, which is at the least every Kentuckian, has standing.

  • Don Gwinn

    OK, so the rationale is either standing (which would have been my guess) or the argument that this is ceremonial and it’s a general enough reference to pass as “deism.”

    I agree that “ceremonial deism” shouldn’t be a test–it would leave several religions out, to say nothing of atheists–but IF that was the finding, I can see how that would pass scrutiny.  (I disagree with it, in other words, but I don’t sit on the bench!)

    Maybe constitutional . . . . still foolish.

  • C Peterson

    Not only are there rather obvious First Amendment issues here, both with respect to religious separation and free speech, but I think a case might also be made that this violates Article IV, paragraph 3, the No Religious Test Clause. The legal interpretation of this clause holds that no federal employee can be required to adhere to any religious belief- something that the law seems dangerously close to requiring of the state’s Homeland Security director.

  • C Peterson

    Nah, he was just getting ready for a football game at a Kentucky high school.

  • Artor

    Regardless of what the DHS does here, the Kentucky legislature has already mad a law respecting an establishment of religion. That right there explicitly defies the Constitution. I’m astonished that there is any debate on this at all- the law is pretty clear.

  • 3lemenope

    As much as it feels like it ought to, standing really doesn’t work this way. The prudential rule preventing judicial action against generalized grievances weighs strongly against standing being conferred in the way you describe. There must be particularized injury against an individual by the statute at issue before a suit may legitimately be brought for consideration of the statute’s constitutionality.

  • Marella

    If Americans fasted for religious purposes as a law requests that would probably be a good thing. Most Westerners could stand a few days fast every now and then.

  • Richard Wade

    Oh he was on duty as always, but he was playing Allah that day.

  • Antinomian

    “Lord keep my aim true and let not my shootin’ iron stray from your true path to defend us’ns and yourn from them brown fellers over yonder”.