Does Kentucky law mandate belief in God?
Tom Riner is a state legislator in Kentucky. He is also a Baptist minister who believes America is a nation under God. In 2006, he sponsored a bill calling for official recognition that the safety and security of Kentucky relies on “Almighty God.” The bill was passed and it’s been under attack ever since. To get a complete understanding of what the law calls for, it’s important to read the legislation in full. Two laws were passed on the subject. They are:
Kentucky Revised Statute 39A.285 which provides: (emphasis added by ATJ.info)
The General Assembly hereby finds that:
(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.’ ” (This was passed in 2002 as a Legislative Finding).
Kentucky Supreme Court
Kentucky Revised Statute 39G.010(2)(a) requires the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security 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)
. (This was added in 2006.)
Individual plaintiffs and the American Atheists, Inc. sued to block implementation of these laws. They claimed that they attempt to establish a religion in the state. The trial court found for the plaintiffs stating that the laws violated the state and federal constitutions and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The judge ruled that the laws place an affirmative duty to rely on an Almighty God for the protection of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
On appeal, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed the trial court in October, 2011 and said that “A simple reference to a generic “God” acknowledges religion in a general way.” * The Establishment Clause seeks to prohibit sponsorship, financial support and active involvement of the government in religious activity. These laws do no such thing, the court said. On appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, review was denied in August, 2012. On November 13, 2012, the plaintiffs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the lower court. A decision is expected in 2013.
You may read about this case spun to the writer’s political or religious views. This is not a case about mandating a belief in God or incarcerating those who profess otherwise. It is about recognizing history and the influence religion has played in the development of one’s culture.
*Kentucky Office of Homeland Security v. Christerson, 371 SW3d 754 (2011).