Atheists Sue Over Kentucky God Mandate

A Kentucky statute that declares the state’s reliance on “Almighty God” for protection against security threats has been challenged by an atheist group.

The 2006 state law creating the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security listed its initial duty to be “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”

The measure also requires the state to post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center featuring a Bible verse and a statement that begins, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

The religious provisions in the law had gone largely unnoticed until the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about them in November. American Atheists, representing 10 Kentucky residents, sued in state court to overturn the legislation, finding it “grossly, and outrageously, at variance with” the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions. (American Atheists v. State of Kentucky)

State Rep. Tom Riner (D-Louisville), a Southern Baptist minister, snuck the provision into the legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly passed in 2006.

“This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky,” Riner told the Herald-Leader. “The job is too big for government.”

State Sen. Kathy Stein (D-Lexington) disagrees with the legislation and said it weakens the state’s defense against public-safety threats.

“It’s very sad to me that we do this sort of thing,” said Stein, a former member of the Americans United National Advisory Council. “It takes away from the seriousness of the public discussion over security, and it clearly hurts the credibility of this office if it’s supposed to be depending on God, first and foremost.”