US Supreme Court Declines to Hear American Atheists vs. Kentucky Office of Homeland Security

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by American Atheists in American Atheists vs. Kentucky Office of Homeland Security which effectively leaves Kentucky’s bizarre faith based security measure in place.

The law empowering Kentucky’s state Office of Homeland Security includes a provision that,

(2) The executive director shall:

(a) Publicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth by including the provisions of KRS 39A.285(3) in its agency training and educational materials. The executive director shall also be responsible for prominently displaying a permanent plaque at the entrance to the state’s Emergency Operations Center stating the text of KRS 39A.285(3);

KRS 39A.285(3) in turns reads,

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.'”

This lawsuit goes back to 2008. American Atheists won a ruling in its favor at the Circuit Court level, but that decision was overturned by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

In an October 2011 ruling, the Appeals Court held that the publication of the text in question was simply a recognition of the the role of religion in American life rather than an unconstitutional attempt to compel religious belief. The Appeals court argued that the law was similar to an Ohio’s designation of “With God all things are possible” as the state motto which in 2001 was held not to violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Cause.
The Kentucky State Supreme Court, like the US Supreme Court, refused to hear an appeal by American Atheists.

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