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Austin Cline

Kentucky Homeland Security: God is Vital to State Security

By December 6, 2008

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Would you put your health, life, and safety in the hands of people who in turn insist that safety and security cannot be achieved without relying on God? That really doesn't sound like the sort of people who can be relied upon, but it's all the people of the state of Kentucky have because that's the foundation of their state's Homeland Security office. It's probably the ultimate consequence of faith-based government programs and it's certainly the logical conclusion of any faith-based religion. It's also clearly unconstitutional, not that very many people in Kentucky's state government care. They have God on their side, remember?

Here is what Kentucky law (KRS 39A.285(3)) 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.' "

This is what the law requires the Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to do:

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)

These religious duties of a civil servant actually come first among all the duties of this office before distributing funds, before implementing security directives, and before assessing the state's security preparedness. Doesn't that make you feel safer already?

All of this is the fault of a Southern Baptist minister named Tom Riner who has also sadly been elected to a position of political power in Kentucky:

State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago. ...The time and energy spent crediting God are appropriate, said Riner, D-Louisville, in an interview this week. "This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky," Riner said. "Government itself, apart from God, cannot close the security gap. The job is too big for government." ...

Under previous Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a lay Baptist preacher, Homeland Security interpreted the law at face value, prominently crediting God in its annual reports to state leaders and posting the required plaque.

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

The provisions here are religious on a number of levels. First, it requires official endorsement for belief not just in the existence of "a" god, but belief in the existence of a very particular god: the god of western monotheism. The references to "Almighty God" and Pslam 127:1 prevent this from being an endorsement of a very general sort of deity that might theoretically include anything from deism to strict monotheism.

Second, these provisions promote a particular relationship with this deity: people are told that they must trust and rely upon this deity for their security and safety needs. Although it's not made very explicit, the traditions of western religious monotheism teach that this reliance requires absolute submission to the will and desires of this god. It is absolutely necessary for people to have "faith" in God and submit to God in order to receive the "blessings" of security and safety.

Third, a civil servant is co-opted into performing religious duties. When church and state are separated, religious duties are performed by religious authorities within the churches. This would necessarily include promoting the idea that we must be dependent upon God for our security. Here, the state government of Kentucky is assuming the authority to provide people with religious instruction about what sort of relationship they should have with what sort of deity.

Citizens are thus being instructed to become dependent upon and submissive to some alleged god for the sake of their safety rather than become proactive and assuming responsibility for their own well-being. Since there are no gods around speaking to us and giving us instruction, the only way for people to receive instructions from God is through human beings who assume the authority to speak on behalf of God.

Normally these human beings should be religious authorities whom we have the choice of submitting to or not. If you don't think there are any gods or if you think there is a god out there but disagree with what's being said, you have the choice of ignoring them. Here, however, the state government of Kentucky is assuming that authority and is not giving anyone any choice about whether they can submit to it.

Because the traditional religious teaching is that we must submit to God without question, the government is implicitly telling people to submit to the government without question. It's rare that you'll see such a connection spelled out, but it's a connection that we must all keep firmly in mind when we see developments like this: every move towards theocracy is necessarily a move towards totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and despotism. A theocratic government is an oppressive, totalitarian government because a theocratic government which teaches absolute submission to God is also teaching absolute submission to God's representatives and since that government is presuming to embody God's laws and God's will, this includes absolute submission to the state.

December 7, 2008 at 7:30 am
(1) JdeP says:

For two nations supposedly so similar and with a “Special Relationship”, the comparative role of religion in politics in the US and UK is fascinating.

While Dubbya and other presidents have professed their faith in God at every opportunity in order to keep large swathes of the US on his side, Tony Blair had to actively *hide* his personal faith in a god, in order to be taken seriously.

If a UK government passed legislation including a clause like that passed in Kentucky, there would be mass rioting in the streets of London.

To most of us in the UK, you might as well substitute the phrase “Little Green Men from Mars” in place of “Almighty God”.

I do not say this to be rude or inflammatory, but I wonder if this general state of affairs has something to do with the general level of education in the US, which by UK standards is shockingly low.

December 7, 2008 at 1:37 pm
(2) Paul Buchman says:

I wonder if this general state of affairs has something to do with the general level of education in the US, which by UK standards is shockingly low.

The correlation between high religiosity and low education has been pointed out many times on this blog. Several studies have verified the correlation. You need wonder no longer.

December 8, 2008 at 9:49 pm
(3) Leon says:

In fact, there is a strong effort on the part of the religious right in the US to dumb down our children. Texas is a prime example.

The chair and a large number of members on the Texas State Board of Education are anti-evolution and in favor of teaching creationism in high school science classes.

The fact that morons like this are allowed to set the science curriculum for our children is appaling. They are also the ones who want to double the credit for athletics, further watering down the value of a high-school diploma.

It is apparently a very succesful strategy because the less high school students learn, the more likely it is that high school graduates will support he religious right’s anti-science agenda.

June 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm
(4) Ken says:

Unfortunately, if you read your constitution, you’ll find that nowhere does it prevent a state from passing a law respecting or prohibiting the free exersize of a religion. It does say that congress, (the national congress) cannot do so. Under the section dictating the restrictions imposed on states, there isnt even a peep.

It is a common misconception that the states are held captive by the same restrictions that the constitution places on the national government. In truth, it is quite the opposite. The states enjoy every power not delegated to the national government, that is also not specifically taken away from the states. Although I agree that Kentucky has made a bad move, unless the kentucky constitution prohibits such action, it’s perfectly legal.

June 4, 2009 at 7:22 pm
(5) Ken says:
June 4, 2009 at 7:33 pm
(6) Austin Cline says:

Unfortunately, if you read your constitution, you’ll find that nowhere does it prevent a state from passing a law respecting or prohibiting the free exersize of a religion.

You’re distressingly ignorant of basic constitutional law.

It is a common misconception that the states are held captive by the same restrictions that the constitution places on the national government.

It is a common misconception or maybe it’s just a lie spread by the far right that constitutional restrictions on government power apply to the Congress alone. The truth is that basic constitutional restrictions on government power have been consistently found to apply to all levels of the government, from the local level through the state governments.

Local and state governments cannot ban any religion or sponsor any religion. They cannot infringe on free speech, freedom of assembly, or other basic rights.

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