The Kentucky Supreme Court has rejected a petition challenging the upholding of a law that requires the state Office of Homeland Security to stress "dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth."
A brief order issued by the top court last week refused to review the case by American Atheists Inc. on behalf of a few residents, The Courier-Journal reported Sunday. The New Jersey-based atheist group's petition was against a 2011 ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that upheld the reference to "Almighty God."
Edwin Kagin, the group's national legal director, called the order "a disappointment." He said he will discuss with his clients if they should drop the case or appeal it to the federal level.
The group had claimed in a 2008 suit that the law was a violation of constitutional bans on state-sponsored religion. Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that the state had "created an official government position on God." "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," he wrote in his ruling.
However, the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling and upheld the law, saying it "merely pays lip service to a commonly held belief in the puissance (power) of God." The court majority related the case to that of an Ohio law, upheld by a federal appeals court in 2001, establishing a state motto, "With God, All Things Are Possible." It said the ruling in the Ohio law case was in line with a long history of "all three government branches recognizing the role of religion in American life."
Kagin called the order "frightening." "What's really frightening about this is it's increasingly clear that these people want to establish the Christian religion, and they're getting more and more blatant about it all the time," he was quoted as saying.
The state Office of Homeland Security was established following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The amendments referencing God were added by state Rep. Tom Riner (D-Louisville), a Southern Baptist minister.