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A Year in Jail for Not Believing in God?

Posted by on Nov. 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM
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http://www.alternet.org/belief/year-jail-not-believing-god-how-kentucky-persecuting-atheists#.UK06wOAj4Ng.facebook

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

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.
 
 

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.
by on Nov. 23, 2012 at 2:49 PM
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Replies (1-10):
momnivorous
by New Member on Nov. 23, 2012 at 2:52 PM
Wow.
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IhartU
by Gold Member on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:01 PM
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The whole South seems to be full of religious nutters- someone tell me that's not reality...

AlekD
by Gold Member on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:03 PM
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Seriously? Wow. Ive never been to the south and I'm thinking that might be a good thing.
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mikiemom
by Ruby Member on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:09 PM
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this is exactly what many fear. These minority right wing fanatics are vocal and dangerous. This is how religious persecution begins.

wickedfiress
by Kellie on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:12 PM
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Well, if my husband reenlists and gets stationed at Fort Campbell, I'll be sure to live on the Tennessee side.
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Arroree
by Ruby Member on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:13 PM
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This exactly. But when we try to say that this is where the slippery slope leads we get phoo-phoo'd and told it could NEVER happen, yet here we are...

Quoting mikiemom:

this is exactly what many fear. These minority right wing fanatics are vocal and dangerous. This is how religious persecution begins.


romalove
by Roma on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:13 PM
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Isn't it enough that we're damned to an eternal hellfire for not believing?

wickedfiress
by Kellie on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:15 PM
Nah. If we aren't Christian surely we are domestic terrorists and anti American!

Quoting romalove:

Isn't it enough that we're damned to an eternal hellfire for not believing?

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romalove
by Roma on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:16 PM

 

Quoting wickedfiress:

Nah. If we aren't Christian surely we are domestic terrorists and anti American!

Quoting romalove:

Isn't it enough that we're damned to an eternal hellfire for not believing?

 Oh, I would never be welcome in Kentucky, I'm sure.

I'm from New Jersey. 

::shudder::

momtoscott
by Gold Member on Nov. 23, 2012 at 3:17 PM

 I can't figure out what the law actually is from this article--the plaques themselves are objectionable, but who is supposed to put them up? Who goes to jail if they don't comply, the facilities types in the Homeland Security building?  People who don't bow their head when passing the plaques? 

This law is strange.  (Also strange that Riner is a Democrat, usually legislation like this is sponsored by a Republican. Plenty of loonies to go around both parties, of course.) 

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