My Old Kentucky Homeland

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politicians country bar.jpegLast Friday, the Lexington Herald-Leader published a story by John Cheves revealing that Kentucky’s 2006 law organizing its Office of Homeland Security lists as its first duty “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.” That duty obligated the Office to publicize God’s benevolent protection in its annual reports and the state’s Emergency Operations Center to affix a plaque at its entrance declaring, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from the reliance on Almighty God.”
The man behind this provision of the law is State Rep. Tom Riner, a Louisville Democrat who happens to be a Southern Baptist minister. “This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky,” Riner told the Herald-Leader. “Government itself, apart from God, cannot close the security gap. The job is too big for government.”
Be that as it may, once upon a time, Baptists considered it anathema to get the government involved in promoting God’s engagement in jobs like that. Those Danbury Baptists who provoked Thomas Jefferson into dilating on a wall of separation between church and state didn’t want government to do anything to further the acknowledgment of God, however beneficial such acknowledgment might be to the security, spiritual or otherwise, of the community at large. These days, that old Baptist separationism can be found in places like the Baptist Joint Committee but increasingly rarely among Southern Baptists.
So the legal challenge must come from quarters like American Atheists of Parsippany, N.J., who yesterday filed a lawsuit on behalf of a number of their co-non-religionists in the Bluegrass State. In asking that references to God be removed from the law, the suit alleges that plaintiffs “suffer anxiety from the belief that the existence of these unconstitutional laws suggest that their very safety as residents of Kentucky may be in the hands of fanatics, traitors or fools.” I choose option three.
Update: Here’s the complaint.