In Kentucky, Atheism Is Persecuted By Law

Your first thought when hearing of this is that it is one of those odd and antiquated laws that is the subject of comical books, articles and websites dedicated to making fun of silly things that are illegal but that nobody listens to. It isn’t. In fact, this law isn’t even old — it was passed in 2006. The law centers on Homeland Security and states that “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.'”

Another part of the law demands the public display of plaques glorifying the religion, as reported by AlterNet:

The law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building–and carries a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail if one fails to comply. The plaque’s inscription begins with the assertion, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

This amounts to a governmental endorsement of a particular religion which is, quite obviously, unconstitutional. That is why the American Atheist Association has been attacking the law since the inception in 2006. They have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review it as well as winning a victory in a Circuit Court ruling that the law was unconstitutional before having that ruling overturned by the Court of Appeals. The dissenting opinion on the Court of Appeals decision was written by Judge Ann O’Malley Shake, and an excerpt reads as follows:

Kentucky’s law is a legislative finding, avowed as factual, that the Commonwealth is not safe absent reliance on Almighty God. Further, (the law) places a duty upon the executive director to publicize the assertion while stressing to the public that dependence upon Almighty God is vital, or necessary, in assuring the safety of the commonwealth

Preventing displays like this is about ensuring the freedom of religion through ensuring that religious minorities have equal rights. The simple fact is that societies change and evolve, and it is likely that one day Christianity will not be the dominant religion in the country or world, because every major religion to this point has faded away at some point. It’s a simple fact of humanity. If you were a Christian in the minority, would you support your secular government giving an endorsement to another religion? No. Religion has no place in legislature or politics.

Another interesting note regarding this law is the fact that the sponsor is, surprisingly, a Democratic congressional Representative. This makes it very difficult to get him out of office; Democrats vote for him to keep Republicans out and positions such as this on religion make it so that conservatives support him somewhat as well. He’s an ordained Baptist minister and sometimes seems to confuse his office with a pulpit. In an interview with the New York Times three years ago, he said this:

“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Mr. Riner, a Baptist minister, said of the lawsuit. “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”

“If we don’t affirm the right to recognize divine providence, then that right will disappear,” Mr. Riner said. “It’s part of our history. Whether we believe it personally or not, it’s what America is.”

“History?” What history? History, as provided by Google Definitions, is defined as “the study of past events, particularly in human affairs” or “the past considered as a whole.”

Historically, we have not been a nation under God. I’ve gone into this in depth before, so I won’t here, but you can find an editorial on the subject here. I’ll simply say this: we were not a “nation under God” (this is a reference to the Pledge of Allegiance) until 1954-56:

Above they list the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” as being fought by an activist judiciary. I find that interesting; you would think, then, that the Pledge and that particular motto would have been in place for a long time and reflected the historical values of our country. However, it’s quite the opposite — “In God We Trust” became our motto in 1956 during the “Godless Communism” scare of the time, and the Pledge lacked the “under God” line until 1954. Our original motto, as many know, was E Pluribus Unum, which translates to “Out Of Many, One.” (Addicting Info)

Legislators like this should keep the church in the churches.

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