December 3, 2008
Atheists Sue Over Ky. Law Tying Homeland Security to God
The American Atheists have sued the commonwealth of Kentucky after learning that a law requires the state's Office of Homeland Security to declare its reliance on God for safety.
The New Jersey-based atheist group filed suit Tuesday in a Kentucky court seeking a ruling that a 2002 law stating that "the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance on God" is unconstitutional.
The atheists are particularly concerned about a 2006 law that calls for the divine-reliance wording to be spelled out on a plaque at the entrance of the state's Emergency Operations Center.
"It's part of the law to publicize that God is necessary for homeland security," said David Silverman, spokesman for American Atheists. "That's part of the law and it's patently unconstitutional. It's so offensive, not just from an atheistic point of view but from an
American point of view because these people are trying to bring the
religious debate into homeland security."
The laws were both sponsored by Democratic delegate Tom Riner of Louisville, Ky., who also is a Southern Baptist minister.
"It's a frivolous lawsuit that American Atheists has launched to attempt to censor and suppress the publication of a key law that acknowledges divine providence," said Riner, pastor of Christ is King Baptist Church.
He said the laws did not get much attention when he sponsored them. But he's getting attention now, and the state is being sued, after the Lexington News-Leader wrote a story about them in late November.
Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but added: "There's a law in place and it's our intent to follow the law."