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

In 2006, politicians in Kentucky passed a law requiring 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. AA’s attorney Edwin Kagin called the law “one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen.”

After a long, drawn-out court battle that involved a lower court victory, an appellate court loss, and a “we’re not getting involved” from the Kentucky Supreme Court, AA appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Yesterday, unfortunately (albeit expectedly), the Supreme Court rejected the request (PDF). They won’t hear the case.

When reached for comment, AA President Dave Silverman said this:

“We disagree with the court’s decision… Kentucky is putting a criminal penalty on a refusal to affirm to a god, and we maintain our stance that this law is unconstitutional. We are proud that we were able to raise awareness about this and we’re sorry the Supreme Court has decided to sidestep the issue. The people of Kentucky deserve better.

(via Religion Clause)

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.

  • Claude

    Wow. This is so wrong.

  • Tiffany Harding

    I’m more interested to find out why the 49ers are suing a Native tribe.

  • ggsillars

    I worry about the future of a lot of things with the current SCOTUS, the Establishment Clause in particular.

  • TnkAgn

    Couldn’t find four Justices willing to hear the case? It may only be a matter of prioritization of the year’s caseload. But I still think it deserved a review.

  • Guest

    And we just sit here like little babies and take this shit.

  • Guest


  • Dave Muscato

    I’d bet it has something to do with changing the name of the Redskins. I know there has been talk of that for a long time; it’s a very pejorative term.

  • fsm

    I think the problem is that Christians see the war on terrorism as a holy war and they are on the side of good. I worry what this kind of thinking might lead to since the Muslims think that the Christians are morally bankrupt.

    Let’s not forget that we got God on our money and in our pledge when we were worried about the godless communists. 60 years later and the next generation of Christians with a persecution complex are still looking for an enemy.

    I am not saying that the terrorist would leave us alone if we were a true secular nation, I am saying that Christians think that the One True God ™ watches over them and helps them win football, jobs and the war on terrorism.

  • 3lemenope

    Keep in mind that due to the SCOTUS case load (~8,000 petitions, about 120 of which are heard), they tend to grant certiorari under a fairly narrow set of circumstances; either a disagreement among different circuits on the same issue of law, or a case that presents a ripe and unsolved constitutional question. The denial of cert does not indicate in any way the opinion of the court on the matter in question.

  • Mackinz


    I wonder why people in such positions (such as the Kentucky supreme court) have to be so biased towards Christianity that issues regarding the law get voted in favor of Christianity, even when the issue is based off the the establishment clause.

  • Randomfactor
  • Randomfactor

    It’s a mining dispute.

  • Duo

    The New 49′ers is a group of gold miners looking to suction-dredge rivers for gold. They use a barge to pump up and sift through river sediment, dumping the crap back into the river, usually turning the river to muck. The Karuk attempted to get them banned from doing it in rivers with protected salmon, and the 49ers attempted to get the Karuk banned from being able to fish in retaliation. The Supreme Court refused to hear the 49ers case.

  • m6wg4bxw

    Who is this “Almighty God,” and how, exactly, is the Department of Homeland Security relying upon it?

    Questions like these should be explicitly answered before such a declaration can be required by law.

  • coyotenose

    Don’t forget that He also helps them find their car keys!

  • flyb

    And repairs their printers.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Thegoodman

    I don’t think that a public forum that displays our displeasure with our government is the same as sitting here like little babies.

    What avenue would you suggest to do something about it?

  • flyb

    Oh Kentucky. What can’t you do?

  • Gus Snarp

    I think the problem is that Christians see the war on terrorism as a holy war and they are on the side of good.

    I think you’ve got the motivation for Kentucky’s language in a nutshell. Sure, there are plenty of Christians who don’t feel that way, but unless I’m quite mistaken, there are many Christians who’ve said as much. Including some in the military and our previous President. One certainly has to wonder if Muslim Americans, let alone Muslims in other countries, misses that clear message that Kentucky is sending: that they’re in a holy war, and Muslims are the enemy.

  • Richard Wade

    Kentucky is putting a criminal penalty on a refusal to affirm to a god,
    and we maintain our stance that this law is unconstitutional.

    Since “you must show standing” is now the fad in federal courts for Constitutional challenges, it seems to me that the only way to get this law struck down is to have someone violate it, be convicted, fined and/or imprisoned, and also fired, and then go through the appeals process as high as it needs to go. Lots of luck with finding someone willing to do that.

    The people of Kentucky deserve better.

    The people of Kentucky elected these superstitious would-be theocrats, and the people continue to re-elect them despite many behaviors like this.

    “In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve.”
    –Joseph de Maistre

  • jdm8

    A citizen being under the thumb of this law should be standing enough, in my opinion. This lack of standing issue is also a problem with prayers at inaugurations and other one-time events, you don’t have standing before the event, but after the event, it’s over so the point of the lawsuit is moot.

    A more apt metaphor is the democracy being two wolves and one chicken deciding whether to eat the chicken.I think it’s arguable that Kentuckians elect leaders because the leaders do this. The majority is probably OK with this, because the majority doesn’t feel the brunt of the law.

  • Bill Santagata

    This case was correctly decided. The mention of God in this instance falls within the boundaries of ceremonial deism that the courts have long held to be constitutional. No one is required to affirm the existence of any god.

  • Bill Santagata

    The law does not put any penalty on refusing to affirm the existence of any god and American Atheists is being deliberately antagonistic in suggesting this.

    Standing is not a “fad.” It is absolutely required by the Constitution of the United States.

  • Rich Wilson

    Somebody is responsible for having a plaque made and mounted, under penalty of 12 months in prison.

    I suppose you could argue that whoever has to put up the plaque doesn’t have to agree with it, in the same way the Mint is required to make currency with IGWT on it?

    I’d be interested in seeing an openly atheist contractor of some type lose a contract and assert that the reason they did so was due to religious discrimination. Put this up against the Civil Rights act and see who wins.

  • Bill Santagata

    While the penalties imposed for not mounting the plaque are unnecessary, the plaque is not actually the speech of any individual. It is speech by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Your Mint analogy is correct: “In God We Trust” is not the speech of the guy running the machine; it is the speech of the United States of America.

  • David Starner

    And the Establishment clause of the First Amendment says that the government can’t make that speech.

  • Stev84

    “Ceremonial deism” is a load of made-up nonsense. More like “ceremonial theism”. It has nothing to do with Deism as anyone would understand it.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    I guess when the “terrorists” put Kentucky on the top of their list of targets and somehow manage to do some heinous act against the State, then possibly these lawmakers will see that gawd did not protect them. I doubt it though. Most likely they will rally around some imaginary tenuous event of gawd’s intervention and make a big deal about in the press.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    …we have always been at war with Eastasia…

  • Bill Santagata

    This is not true, at least under current Supreme Court precedent.

  • KaeylynHunt

    Give me directions to that Fascist Christian Nazi Hellhole and I’ll go rip that sucker DOWN myself.It IS after all MY Freedom of Speech and against MY religious”beliefs”.Let’s see just how far they are willing to go with this,because when someone DOES rip it down,and goes to jail for it THEN and only then will it get News Coverage and maybe we’ll get it before SCOTUS.It is VERY scary times folks,very scary.The Brown Shirts no longer say”Heil Hitler”,they say’In God we trust”..Half of me wants to get on the next dam* plane&leave the whole mess&be DONE with it.because after almost 40 years of this BS,I am TIRED.The other half(one that’s winning&VERY stubborn)says”Hell no,make THEM leave,it’s my land after all,I’m Native American.”And I’m afraid of what will happen to the rest of the World if they DO get full control of America.They keep on,and I’m going to start Channeling The Ghost of Crazy Horse so to speak.And keep my bag packed by the door with a Passport&Drivers License just in case. I’ve already been the target of vandalism,been physically assaulted&had Death threats by these folks in my time,it wouldn’t be unheard of that I’d need to vamoose once again.If you don’t have people banging Bibles that hate you somewhere,then you aren’t truly standing up for what’s Right in The World:)

  • midnight rambler

    It should be enough, but with this court it isn’t. Bear in mind that the court threw out the challenge to warrantless wiretapping, a vastly more significant case, because the plaintiffs couldn’t prove that their communications had been monitored. Even though the government refused to say whether they had or not (for obvious reasons), and they had incurred significant expense and loss of communications in order to avoid using monitor-able lines, under the assumption that they would be tapped.

  • Bode

    Theocracy here we come

  • H.m. Boche

    What do you expect from a state that has the Creation Museum? A ridiculous museum the state funds with tax dollars. The Balkanization of America is on its way.

  • Burzghash

    The Constitution of the United States also states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. It’s not atheists being antagonistic. It’s Christians affirming their theistic beliefs in places they have no business being.

  • Burzghash

    It is absolutely true. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Kentucky has opted to endorse theism as part of a government venue, which clearly goes against the founders’ intention of separation of church and state. But I imagine you have as loose an interpretation of that as required in order to push your theistic agenda.

  • Brian Williamson

    If these judges have a problem upholding the Constitution, which seems to be the case; they can be Impeached. Or do you believe they can just override an impeachment proceeding by judicial review as well?

  • amycas

    Guys, Bill Santagata is correct. Under the current Supreme Court precedent regarding “ceremonial deism”, the Kentucky law could be seen as constitutional. He is also correct in stating that the requirement of “standing” is not some new fad the USSC is instituting, but rather a requirement before anybody can go to court in the U.S. Santagata did not say whether or not he actually agrees that these things are right or that they should be regarded as constitutional. He is merely stating the facts as we know it regarding court precedent in this area.