Saturday, October 29, 2011

State Statutory Finding of Reliance on God Survives Constitutional Attack

In Kentucky Office of Homeland Security v. Christerson, (KY App., Oct. 28, 2011), a Kentucky state appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, rejected Establishment Clause and state constitutional challenges to legislative findings enacted as part of Kentucky's 2002 Antiterrorism Act. The findings (Sec. 39A.285) recited that "the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance on Almighty God as set forth in public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents...." A 2006 law (Sec. 39G.010) called upon the state Department of Homeland Security to include in agency training and educational materials the language regarding reliance on God.  The majority held:
The Kentucky legislature has not attempted to compel belief or participation in any form of religious exercise, nor does it seek to prefer one belief over another. A simple reference to a generic “God” acknowledges religion in a general way....
The legislation ... does not seek to advance religion, nor does it have the effect of advancing religion, but instead seeks to recognize the historical reliance on God for protection.
Judge Shake dissenting argued that the challenged statutes
go beyond merely acknowledging the historical role of religion and instead require dependence upon Almighty God to secure the Commonwealth’s safety.
Yesterday's Louisville Courier Journal reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)