Kentucky vs. The U.S. Constitution

"In Kentucky, a homeland security law requires the state’s citizens to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God--or risk 12 months in prison.

The law and its sponsor, state representative Tom Riner, have been the subject of controversy since the law first surfaced in 2006, yet the Kentucky state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality, despite clearly violating the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

"This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen," said Edwin Kagin, the legal director of American Atheists', a national organization focused defending the civil rights of atheists. American Atheists’ launched a lawsuit against the law in 2008, which won at the Circuit Court level, but was then overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

The law states, "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.'"

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.”

Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and the long-time Democratic state representative, sponsored the law.

“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Riner told The New York Times shortly after the law was first challenged in court. “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”

A practicing Baptist minister, Riner is solely devoted to his faith--even when that directly conflicts with his job as state representative. He has often been at the center of unconstitutional and expensive controversies throughout his 26 years in office. In the last ten years, for example, the state has spent more than $160,000 in string of losing court cases against the American Civil Liberties Union over the state’s decision to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings, legislation that Riner sponsored.

Although the Kentucky courts have yet to strike down the law, some judges have been explicit about its unconstitutionality.

"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,” wrote Judge Ann O'Malley Shake in Court of Appeals’ dissenting opinion.

This rational was in the minority, however, as the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts’ decision that the law was unconstitutional.

Last week, American Atheists submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the law.

Riner, meanwhile, continues to abuse the state representative’s office, turning it into a pulpit for his God-fearing message.

"The safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God," Riner recently t old Fox News.

"We believe dependence on God is essential. ... What the founding fathers stated and what every president has stated, is their reliance and recognition of Almighty God, that's what we're doing," he said."


  • Ertrov
  • November 21, 2012, 5:40 pm
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  • 2

    I thought republicans were supposed to be the crazy religious ones?

    Usually they are, but there are Jesusfreaks on both sides. When was the last time you saw a presidential nominee who wasn't a Christian (or at least has to claim to be just to get elected?)
    - CrazyJay November 21, 2012, 8:26 pm
    - MIKYTEY November 21, 2012, 11:09 pm
    Obama definitely claims to be a Christian, and probably is one.
    - Ertrov November 21, 2012, 11:10 pm
    Well his mother was a Secular Humanist (Atheist?) So it's likely he shares the same views, but has to run as a Christian because American voters haven't grown up on this issue yet.
    - CrazyJay November 22, 2012, 10:02 am
    Obama is absolutely a Christian man. So much so that he expanded pseudo-unconstitutional public policy, the faith-based initiative, even more than Bush. I'm not a fan of the fact, but questioning Obama's religious fervor is generally unfounded.
    - Logos385 November 22, 2012, 11:11 am
    Normally I'd know better than to argue with you. But at the same time, would Obama not get nailed by republicans if he didn't push said policies? Maybe he's just making the "safe" move politically regardless of his personal beliefs? (Or maybe I'm just desperate to believe that Obama isn't religious.)
    - CrazyJay November 22, 2012, 5:24 pm
    I'm intrigued and confused by that first statement : P.
    And absolutely. Whether or not Obama was actually religious, he would have to feign being so. In that sense, it's never quite 100% assured when you hear politicians espouse their religious views.

    However, with Obama, it really seems convincing. Attending church, blessing America consistently, expanding the faith-based initiative to well beyond what it was in the Bush era, persistently defending Rev. Wright, etc. etc. I would also prefer to believe he was a nonreligious individual, but that doesn't seem extremely likely : (.
    - Logos385 November 22, 2012, 11:56 pm
    What I meant was you clearly know what you're talking about regarding of these types of issues, so I'm reluctant to try to argue with you/change your mind. Really just brought it up for the sake of discussion. :P
    - CrazyJay November 23, 2012, 8:04 am
    Haha, never be reluctant to engage in discussion! : ). But I do appreciate that sentiment, and want to be sure that you know we are on the same footing here, and generally agree.

    What I wouldn't give for a nonreligious President...
    - Logos385 November 23, 2012, 12:03 pm
  • 1

    The First amendment says that there is a freedom in religion. No where does it say a separation of church and state.

    Oh boy. You're one of those people. Look, firstly, the First Amendment does include the phrase, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," which this law clearly violates. Besides that, this passage taken from the Treaty of Tripoli should clear up the issue:

    "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

    America is secular by its very nature.
    - Ertrov November 21, 2012, 10:43 pm
    I am a Christian yes, but I do not go around downing other people's religion. I was just stating the fact that in the first amendment it doesn't say anything about a separation of church and state.
    - had5244888 November 21, 2012, 11:10 pm
    The first amendment on religion says:
    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

    which means "separation of church and State."
    - casper667 November 21, 2012, 11:11 pm
    It does, just not in those words.
    - Ertrov November 21, 2012, 11:11 pm
    had524WTF, in this day and age someone, somewhere is gonna get offended by placing any religious anything in a government area, and can (and some cases will) sue the government or whatever entity is displaying the religious item for discrimination for/against their religion. it's not just unconstitutional, it's a legal hazard. it's sad but true.
    - MIKYTEY November 21, 2012, 11:14 pm
    that basically says that if i want to do something religious-wise, i can do it. there is nothing there about any kind of separation. that didn't come around until literally 60 years ago.
    - had5244888 November 21, 2012, 11:17 pm
    Really? One of the 7 key founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, said it himself:

    "January 1, 1802

    ...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State...

    Thomas Jefferson
    President of the United States"
    - casper667 November 21, 2012, 11:22 pm
    And he made that quote saying that congress shouldn't be allowed to stop someone from doing any religious "duties". Yet the first amendment still says nothing about a separation of church and state.
    - had5244888 November 21, 2012, 11:26 pm
    You keep focusing on the free exercise clause. We are talking about the Establishment clause.

    Thomas Jefferson himself said of the First Amendment "thus building a wall of separation between church and State." The Supreme Court also interprets it this way. Citing Jefferson, the Supreme Court has said: "In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state."
    - casper667 November 21, 2012, 11:37 pm
    Is that why the 10 commandments still hang in the Supreme Court?
    - had5244888 November 21, 2012, 11:39 pm
    Look. I never bashed anyone's religion. I never said what this person was doing was right. I was pointing out something. Stop having a cow dude.
    - had5244888 November 21, 2012, 11:58 pm
    They are part of the Supreme Courts south frieze, along with other prominent early Law figures such as Hammurabi and Confucius. Not to mention Moses is not the central figure, or that you can not read the text of the 10 commandments. Image below so you can see:

    In cases where the 10 commandments have been displayed in court houses, such as McCreary County v. ACLU (2005), the Supreme Court has ruled that such displays are unconstitutional.
    - casper667 November 22, 2012, 12:00 am
    Some Supreme Courts still have them hanging up. That was my point. Believe what you want, I really don't care. I do not judge people on what religion they decide to follow or believe in.
    - had5244888 November 22, 2012, 12:03 am
    Actually you've got it ass-backwards. It was around then that they started merging aspects of church and state (Putting "in god we trust" on money, adding "one nation under god" to the pledge of alliance.") You've got to remember this was when the gov't was trying to get people riled up over "godless commies" in the USSR.
    - CrazyJay November 22, 2012, 10:06 am
    That's irrelevant. Only 2/10 commandments are even legally enforceable (Don't steal and don't kill.) Those are conclusions any society could come to without religion. "Thou shalt not bear false witness"? Tell that to about 60-70% of congress. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods"? Not in an economy that relies on consumption of goods. "Though shalt not covet thy neighbors wife"? Courts can't control thought, coveting goes on in the mind. Though shalt not commit adultery? Again, impossible to enforce if sex is consensual. Cheating isn't illegal either.Then the remaining commandments about worshiping god, having no false gods before him. Goes on in the mind, not legally enforceable.

    In conclusion, can't tell if trolling or have no idea what you're talking about.
    - CrazyJay November 22, 2012, 10:38 am
    I was making a point that some of the supreme courts still have them hanging in the court rooms. I didn't say anything about anyone enforcing them.
    - had5244888 November 22, 2012, 11:01 am
    Take a second and go read the establishment clause. Take a second and think about the establishment clause. After doing so, reply to me. Is there any way this clause could not be interpreted as a "wall?" A binding principle that prevents the government from religious-based policy?
    - Logos385 November 22, 2012, 11:14 am
    Holy crap. The first amendment was created to keep congress from stepping in on any kind of religious anything. The "separation of church and state" comment by Thomas Jefferson was again highlighting that congress should not be able to step in on religious activities. That is my interpretation of it. If yours is different, then that is your opinion.
    - had5244888 November 22, 2012, 5:15 pm
    So you brought it up because...?
    - CrazyJay November 22, 2012, 5:25 pm
    the reason the seperation of church and state is needed isn't just in the case of christianity, it is a case of all religions and the lack of religion. we are free to practice what ever religion we see fit (so long as it doesn't bring direct harm to other aka harming, or sacrificing people) we keep it separate in order to protect ALL religions not just Christianity. this entire country is founded on religious freedom. by associating one particular religion with the government we thereby allow them to create laws which promote one religion and hinder the rest. these laws are beyond unconstitutional. we are a nation created by the people for the people. it's that simple. any other religion that tried to do something like this would have been instantaneously shot down the only reason this has made it this far is BECAUSE it is for christianity. which is why people are trying to get rid of it. they see the violation of religious rights and are trying to prevent it. the day we say we are a christian country is the day i leave this nation. religion and government do not belong together. for the sake of people everywhere in this country i believe we can't allow this law to be upheld.
    - 24paperwings November 22, 2012, 5:36 pm
    it won't let me reply on the one right above this one, so imma do it here haha. my point was that the supreme court always puts that anything religious is unconstitutional, and yet some of the supreme courts still hang the 10 commandments.
    - had5244888 November 22, 2012, 5:37 pm
    Okay. But you've basically proved my point by pointing out the hypocrisy of it all in this comment. XD
    - CrazyJay November 22, 2012, 5:41 pm
    oh no. i know that there are nothing but hypocrites everywhere. i wont even try to argue that one haha
    - had5244888 November 22, 2012, 5:43 pm
    So it sounds like you are now saying that you believe there is a separation of church and state in the American Government. Which is the same interpretation I, the Supreme Court, and the founding fathers had. Is this not the case?
    - Logos385 November 22, 2012, 11:57 pm
    My beliefs are:
    The government should not be able to stop any kind of religious activity. Doesn't matter your religion, you shouldn't have it stopped because of the government.
    - had5244888 November 23, 2012, 12:35 am
    So you agree with the separation of Church and State then? Or are you saying that legislators should be able to, for instance, institute a forced prayer in classrooms across America, but that they couldn't stop someone from nailing the 10 commandments on the front of the whitehouse?
    - Logos385 November 23, 2012, 12:00 pm
    The prayer in school thing should be a decision made by people in that school. If people want to pray in school, let them pray. Doesn't matter if they are Christian, Muslim, etc., let them pray. And the second part of your comment isn't exactly something of a religious duty.
    - had5244888 November 23, 2012, 12:48 pm
    Individual students can pray in school, whenever they want in fact. That is explicitly because of the separation if church and state: a school cannot stop a student from praying, as that school is a public institution. What exactly are you against regarding church and state separation?
    - Logos385 November 23, 2012, 1:53 pm
  • 1

    Aside from the fact that this does violate the establishment clause of the first amendment. I can't believe this Representative would willfully toss away tax payer money on these court cases.. 160k! In an economic climate like this were many states are in debt and on the verge of going completely broke... The stupidity of it.. ugh.

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