ONTD Political

A Year in Jail for Not Believing in God? How Kentucky is Persecuting Atheists

1:01 pm - 11/25/2012
By Laura Gottesdiener

In Kentucky, a homeland security law requires the state’s citizens to acknowledge the security provided by the Almighty God--or risk 12 months in prison.

The law and its sponsor, state representative Tom Riner, have been the subject of controversy since the law first surfaced in 2006, yet the Kentucky state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality, despite clearly violating the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

"This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen," said Edwin Kagin, the legal director of American Atheists', a national organization focused defending the civil rights of atheists. American Atheists’ launched a lawsuit against the law in 2008, which won at the Circuit Court level, but was then overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

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 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.'"

The law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building--and carries a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail if one fails to comply. The plaque’s inscription begins with the assertion, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and the long-time Democratic state representative, sponsored the law.

“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Riner told The New York Times shortly after the law was first challenged in court. “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”

A practicing Baptist minister, Riner is solely devoted to his faith--even when that directly conflicts with his job as state representative. He has often been at the center of unconstitutional and expensive controversies throughout his 26 years in office. In the last ten years, for example, the state has spent more than $160,000 in string of losing court cases against the American Civil Liberties Union over the state’s decision to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings, legislation that Riner sponsored.

Although the Kentucky courts have yet to strike down the law, some judges have been explicit about its unconstitutionality.

"Kentucky's law is a legislative finding, avowed as factual, that the Commonwealth is not safe absent reliance on Almighty God. Further, (the law) places a duty upon the executive director to publicize the assertion while stressing to the public that dependence upon Almighty God is vital, or necessary, in assuring the safety of the commonwealth,” wrote Judge Ann O'Malley Shake in Court of Appeals’ dissenting opinion.

This rational was in the minority, however, as the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts’ decision that the law was unconstitutional.

Last week, American Atheists submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the law.

Riner, meanwhile, continues to abuse the state representative’s office, turning it into a pulpit for his God-fearing message.

"The safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God," Riner recently t old Fox News.

"We believe dependence on God is essential. ... What the founding fathers stated and what every president has stated, is their reliance and recognition of Almighty God, that's what we're doing," he said.


Sauce

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sandstorm 26th-Nov-2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
...
I hope some faith is restored in humanity and that this is struck down.
mickeym 26th-Nov-2012 01:47 pm (UTC)
Brought to you courtesy of the same state that allows the ten commandments to be posted inside or outside of court buildings.

I really, really want out of this state. Like, yesterday.
tinylegacies 26th-Nov-2012 01:49 pm (UTC)
there is no way this is even remotely legal so WTF...
cuterabbit33 26th-Nov-2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
Nope nope nope nope nope nope i refuse to believe this is a thing nope nope nope
shoujokakumei 26th-Nov-2012 02:58 pm (UTC)
well Tom Riner sounds like a fuckin tool
hinoema 26th-Nov-2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...

READ IT, MOTHERFUCKERS. THIS SHIT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
____jonas 26th-Nov-2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
BUT THEY DON'T MEAN FREEDOM FROM RELIGION.

Still not sure how it works, but the mental gymnastics are fascinating to watch.
poetic_pixie_13 26th-Nov-2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
pinksta_r 27th-Nov-2012 01:58 am (UTC)
I always see this guy. If you don't mind me asking, what is his name?
pleasure_past 26th-Nov-2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
Kentucky, you should be embarrassed about your life.
poopanna 26th-Nov-2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
This comment just kind of hit me and I choked on a peanut.
ahria 26th-Nov-2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
And my husband says I'm just paranoid when I say I'm growing more and more afraid of Christianity.
roseofjuly 26th-Nov-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Riner told The New York Times shortly after the law was first challenged in court. “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”

Then you should probably give up your job as a legislator. Whatever beliefs the founding fathers had, 1) they codified the separation of church and state in the still-existing document that they wrote, so it must have been important to them - more important than establishing the security of the nation under God or whatever nonsense, and 2) it doesn't matter what the FFs personally believed because they are dead and the nation is more different than they could ever imagine. Would they even be able to fathom laws against sexting and cyberbullying? Would they have fathomed the Voting Rights Act? I mean, come on, we can't rely on WWFFD forever, Jesus. It's time to move on.

And I don't understand how the KY Court of Appeals could have possibly overturned the ruling in favor of ACLU. The law is blatantly unconstitutional. I'd like to read the majority opinion on that.

But the best part is that his constituents are going to keep voting him in to waste taxpayer money and time with this bullshit, simply because he believes in God like they do.
masakochan 26th-Nov-2012 03:35 pm (UTC)


What the founding fathers stated

If I was a History Major, I figure at some point, I'd be asking God, or whoever, if I could gain the ability to breath fire, and travel in time. Because then I would be able to go back in time, and spit flames at whoever started up the whole "US = CHRISTIAN NATION".
eveofrevolution 26th-Nov-2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
A+ use of macro.
one_hoopy_frood 26th-Nov-2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
As an atheist, I just don't know why you wouldn't pretend to go along with it tbh. It hurts people of faith more to have to deny their faith than it bugs me to fake like I do to avoid going to jail. Not that anyone should have to, but still.
one_hoopy_frood 26th-Nov-2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
Also this is a little misleading, they are not quizzing individual people on their faith in God. It's totally gross, but no one is being personally attacked.
zolalupin 26th-Nov-2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
... WHAT?!?! i'm a kentuckian and i never heard about this until just now! WTF?!
browneyedguuurl 26th-Nov-2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
What the hell kind of Salem Witch Trials is this fuckery?!
redstar826 26th-Nov-2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
The law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building--and carries a criminal penalty of up to 12 months in jail if one fails to comply.

but does it say where on the building they must be, or how big they must be? LOL just put a small plaque off to the side where no one will really pay attention to it. It's still a stupid law, but I don't think they are actually going to be carting atheists off to jail over this.


nikoel 26th-Nov-2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
You're kind of missing the big picture here.
wrestlingdog 26th-Nov-2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Photobucket

How is this not unconstitutional??

(Love the Python macro, though.)

Edited at 2012-11-26 06:39 pm (UTC)
apostle_of_eris Article VI26th-Nov-2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States

No, not even The Bill of Rights, right there in the body.
Way too many judges and legislators perjured themselves when they took their oaths of office.
lil_insanity 26th-Nov-2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
I was looking for a "the onion" tag.

D:
angelofdeath275 26th-Nov-2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
uhhhhh.....
shadowwolf1321 26th-Nov-2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
um what the fuck?...

I'm not entirely believing this, But I'm just going to stay away Kentucky anyway.
kitanabychoice 26th-Nov-2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
Side-eyeing the fuck out of Kentucky rn. I wonder, what is so damned hard about keeping your religion (or lack thereof) to yourself? I have to say, the older I get, the more weary I become of having to hide my agnosticism in mixed company because people can't seem to accept that Christianity isn't the only source of moral fiber and way of believing.
vulturoso 26th-Nov-2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
They're like exhibitionists, but somehow more unbearable.
lainiest 26th-Nov-2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
I saw this a week or so ago and I wondered then, as I do now, what the law's actual penal code is (I'd like to see a more official explanation of it and the only reference I've been able to find is dozens of other websites referencing that article), and whether they're actually actively convicting people of violating it.
perthro 26th-Nov-2012 10:03 pm (UTC)
http://kysecurity.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/cert_petition.pdf

Here's a copy of the petition for writ of certiorari. It doesn't matter if they're actually convicting people. It's just as problematic at the laws formerly on the books persecuting people for being gay. Whether or not anyone is actually convicted doesn't matter. This shit is codified into law. It means something.
terra_tenshi 26th-Nov-2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, anyone know what the difference between this and something like having "under God" written in courtrooms and in all our money and in our pledge of allegiance and having people swear on the Bible to tell the truth? Not saying any of these things are right, just curious if anyone knows what kind of legal difference it makes.
____jonas 26th-Nov-2012 08:19 pm (UTC)
Those things aren't really constitutional either, but the potential loss of liberty here (a person's freedom for up to a year) is what makes this particularly troublesome, even if it's never enforced.
crossfire 26th-Nov-2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
the Kentucky state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality

Why?
johnjie 26th-Nov-2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
What the actual fuck

Way to shit on non-Christian Americans, Kentucky.
vulturoso 26th-Nov-2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
Hey, everyone: this is why you don't elect practicing ministers or religious mouthpieces of any kind to government office. They can't control themselves. They're like toddlers with power.
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