Sun. Jun 26th, 2022

Kentucky State Rep. Tom Riner authored legislation inserting god into the homeland security department. (photo: Fox News)

Written by Laura Gottesdiener for Alternet

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 told 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.

 

By OEN

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Ken Carman
Admin
9 years ago

Maybe I missed the specific language, or it’s not in the article, but where is it stated that citizens must agree, or those who represent TSA in KY? I don’t agree with the demand such plaques must be placed, however that seems far less significant than being forced to agree. Also, if an agent has to state that before becoming one, there is an issue of lying one has to deal with. I do agree: should not be put in that position, but I would suspect any jail sentence would be based on the lying, not the lack of faith. Still: should not be, but an obvious distinction.

Joyce Lovelace
Joyce Lovelace
9 years ago

That was my reading also. It also does not make clear who goes to jail if the plaque is not installed.
I suppose that since the public is paying for the plaque and its installation, it is requiring a tacit agreement.

Thom Nairns
Thom Nairns
9 years ago

Somebody needs to get back on his anti-imaginary-friend medication.

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