Acknowledge ‘Almighty God’ or Go Directly to Jail


Everyday in Kentucky, due to a 2008 homeland security law, atheists and agnostics are potentially forced to assert that the public safety of their state is dependent on “Almighty God” or face criminal charges, including up to 12 months in jail.

 On November 13, 2012, American Atheists’ National Legal Director Edwin Kagin submitted a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). American Atheists is asking SCOTUS to review the Kentucky Homeland Security law. American Atheists won at the Circuit Court level a ruling that the law violated the First Amendment, but the decision was reversed by the Kentucky state Court of Appeals. The Kentucky state Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeals’ decision. Filing the petition does not guarantee SCOTUS will hear the case; only one in 1,000 cases are heard. Four of the nine justices must vote to hear the case.

 On August 17, 2012, the Kentucky Supreme Court refused to hear a motion for discretionary review, brought by American Atheists and local plaintiffs, to a state law that makes it mandatory that the Commonwealth and its citizens give credit to Almighty God for its safety and security.  This request was denied in a single line that said that the “…Petition for Discretionary Review is denied.”  Signed, Chief Justice, Kentucky Supreme Court. 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 AbrahamLincoln’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.’”

 This case was first introduced December 2, 2008, when ten Kentucky residents joined with American Atheists to launch a lawsuit against the state. Mr. Kagin said, “This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen.” The case went to trial in Franklin County, Kentucky, in August 2009. Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the law violated the First Amendment’s protection again the establishment of a state religion.

Written By: Teresa MacBain
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  1. How is this “law” enforced?  In what way are citizens and public officials supposed to credit God with their safety?  Public prayer?  Do all public speeches have to invoke God in some way?  Do healthcare professionals have to document in a patient’s medical record that they prayed before surgery and that God was responsible for its successful outcome?  What God?  Allah?  Thor?  Shiva?

    What are the odds that I’d be arrested if, as a nurse, I appeared on TV and told the public that the Valkyries had taken some celebrity or public figure to Valhalla, and thank Thor for it?  Or what if I said I believed that Thor’s mighty hammer Mjolnir would smite Kentucky’s enemies and protect the state?  

     I’d say if Kentuckians really want to test their faith in God’s protection that they immediately do away with police, firefighters, emergency medical services, hospitals and medical offices, emergency management offices and personnel, tornado warning sirens, weather forecasting, guardrails and warning signs on roadways, traffic lights, and anything else that could conceivably insult God’s ability to keep them high, dry, and comfy.  Let’s see how long that lasts.

  2. I genuinely thought the title of the article was a joke or exaggeration. Are there any documented cases of people actually being prosecuted based on this law? 

    Shame on the Kentucky Supreme Court Justices too. They’re either cowards or theocrats. 

  3. Ky state rep Tom Riner (a baptist minister) is the one who drafted the god part.

    Kiss my grits Riner. Comply? When hell freezes over.

  4.  @rdfrs-2450c0875078f592248ac8bff24e7337:disqus

    I’d really like to see you on TV thanking Thor for saving a patient. The patient would have to be onside too, and then you could do the medical bit first, then introduce the patient who could thank the staff etc but then say how (s)he prayed and thankfully the prayers were answered and so must thank almighty Thor. Then with a straight face, you can continue “yes indeed, Thor’ and his mighty hammer be praised”.

    …. any questions from the audience and press?

    Go for it, you know you must.

  5. due to a 2008 homeland security law, atheists and agnostics are POTENTIALLY forced to assert that the public safety of their state is
    dependent on “Almighty God” or face criminal charges, including up to 12
    months in jail.


    Meaning it hasn’t happened, nor is there a specific case in the pipleline.   Also, it’s by no means clear how someone could commit an offence against this law.  So, less to get riled up about than the headline suggests.

    I’d say “keep your powder dry”,  “don’t shoot til you see the whites of their eyes”, and generally conserve energy until the real battle comes.   Which it will, if anyone is actually asinine enough to bring a prosecution based on this law.  Otherwise it’s just another piece of dumb nonsense on the statute books, I’m sure it’s not the only one, such as what’s written on paper money etc.

    In England there remain old, defunct but never repealed chunks of legislation, such as – I’m told – it’s not illegal to shoot a scotsman from the walls of York on a Sunday.   I don’t expect this has been used as a defense for some time.

    Yes, it’s a good idea to whittle away at  bad laws whenever you can, but really, this one isn’t screaming out for attention.    Slow news day for atheists is it?

  6. The story is very much overblown. Reading the judgment it seems that the only duty for which breach could result in prosecution is a duty for the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to publicise [but critically not to agree with or believe in] the bizarre findings of that state’s legislature that security is dependent on supernatural intervention.

    There may be serious issues of a constitutional nature raised by the legislation and that duty, but as far as general criminal prosecution for denial of god – not true at all. Only the executive director is caught by the law, and he only has to publicise the Kentucky legislature’s delusions, not to share them.

    In practice of course, it may be difficult for an atheist to feel comfortable with that duty, which could be taken to promote religion, and this again may raise certain constitutional issues. But it in no way criminalises declarations of atheism or agnosticism, or forces an acknowledgement of god. 

    It is in fact asking the executive director to do what has done by posting this story. It is also exactly what I will be doing with my mates in court tomorrow, as we like a giggle at American legislation.

  7. I agree. For me the part that annoys me is the active preservation of the law by higher courts. Not pursuing a repeal yourself is one thing, but actively opposing/reversing one? 

    Come on..

  8. That’s just in there so they have a fall-guy for when they slash the budget and the shit goes down. They can just blame God; it’s his fucking responsibility. This is just another classic example of pass the buck. It’s very moronic.

  9. Good old Kentucky living down to its reputation as a retarded religious state and obviously proud of it, the only obvious course of action is for enough non believers to say imprison us then.

  10. Yeah, yeah! I know you should not generalize and blame all Americans for the acts of a few. But, I can’t deny that after hearing countless of these stories I can’t help to wonder what on earth is wrong with USA. Many of the things going on overseas are totally incomprehensible for me. I understand that poor undeveloped countries have dysfunctional judiciary systems and practice savagery. But, USA used to be the most advanced society in the world. Europeans used to look up to and admire this nation. What happened???

  11. No, that was made in Rabun County, Georgia.   Been through there…and trust me, the movie wasn’t a caricature or an exaggeration.

  12. Well, Ken Ham did build a large, elaborate, and very powerful moron magnet (the Creation Museum) in Kentucky, and has been trying to build yet another idiot trap, the “Ark Park”, there as well.  Not only did he apparently find a congenial level of mental deficiency in Ol’ Kaintuck, the state is now attracting dimbulbs from all over the country. 

    Maybe Kentucky will secede and we can wall it off after all the religionuts are gathered there.  

  13. It isn’t the entire USA  – it’s that the stupid religious elements of the population were empowered by their mentally-challenged hero George Bush and whipped into a loud, proud, frothing crowd by other troglodytes that had managed to infiltrate local and federal political offices.  The voices of this moronic minority are amplified out of all proportion by the attention that their acts of stupendous stupidity garner from the media.

    Judging from our recent presidential election, the majority of Americans have had enough of them.

  14. Not long ago, while waiting in line for the ferry, I saw two women and a man in their Sunday best who were going car-to-car handing out religious pamphlets.  I couldn’t resist rolling down my window and yelling “Begone, in the name of Beelzebub!” as they approached my car.  My husband and daughter cracked up, as did a ferry worker standing nearby.  Needless to say, I did not receive any pamphlets.  It was probably a petty thing to do…but oh, so satisfying.

  15.  Not only have no prosecutions ever been brought, but I doubt very much that any supporters of this law would ever want to bring one, because they know that as soon as it was tested in an actual case it would be found unconstitutional and thrown out. Keeping it on the books but never used is precisely what they want, because as long as it remains on the books it can be cited as precedent by any other god-botherers who want to introduce other god-related legislation, not only in Kentucky but in any other state. That’s why it needs to be challenged, even when no one is being prosecuted under it.

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