Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Congratulations to my friend Edwin Kagin, legal director for American Atheists, who won his lawsuit against the state of Kentucky for a law that required the state to post plaques and include in all its educational and planning materials a statement saying that the security of the state “cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God.”

A judge on Wednesday struck down a 2006 state law that required the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to stress “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the commonwealth.”

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the law violated the First Amendment’s protection against the establishment of a state religion. Homeland Security officials have been required for three years to credit “Almighty God” in their official reports and post a plaque with similar language at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort.

The judge refused to accept the argument from tradition:

“Even assuming that most of this nation’s citizens have historically depended upon God by choice for their protection, this does not give the General Assembly the right to force citizens to do so now,” Wingate wrote.

“This is the very reason the Establishment Clause was created: to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority,” he wrote. “The commonwealth’s history does not exclude God from the statutes, but it had never permitted the General Assembly to demand that its citizens depend on Almighty God.”

The author of the bill seems to be a bit historically confused:

Riner said Wednesday that he is unhappy with the judge’s ruling. The way he wrote the law, he said, it did not mandate that Kentuckians depend on God for their safety, it simply acknowledged that government without God cannot protect its citizens.

“The decision would have shocked and disappointed Thomas Jefferson, who penned the words that the General Assembly paraphrased in this legislation,” Riner said.

He has it precisely backwards. Jefferson would have strongly opposed Riner’s law because he fervently opposed the government endorsing anyone’s religious beliefs, including his. Regardless of the fact that Jefferson believed in a provident God, he steadfastly refused to issue any proclamations of belief in God or reliance upon God as president, despite a great deal of pressure to do so and the example of his predecessors to the contrary.

That is the distinction that Christian nation revisionists never seem to grasp. They love to quote the founding fathers saying they believe in God, but believing in God is not the same thing as believing that the government must endorse that belief.