Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - The Kentucky Court of Appeals was expected to hear oral arguments Thursday over a state law that an Atheist civil rights group says violates state and U.S. constitutions.
Statutes passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks ordered the state Office of Homeland Security office to display a plaque citing dependence on God as an essential tool in fighting terrorism, and to incorporate that theme in its training materials.
In 2008, the American Atheists and 10 Kentucky residents filed a lawsuit challenging the law.
According to its website, American Atheists is a nationwide movement "that defends civil rights for Atheists; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy."
In 2009, a circuit court judge rejected a state request to dismiss the case and ruled in favor of the Atheist group, saying that the law was an endorsement of religion by the government.
According to the Courier-Journal, Special Assistant Attorney General Tad Thomas was to defend the law on behalf of the Attorney General's Office. Edwin Kagin, the national legal director for American Atheists, was to argue on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, has said that the suit is being watched closely across the country.
"The outcome could determine if, and how far, states can go in promoting belief in a deity and sectarian religion," Buckner said in a statement.
"Saying that 'God is on our side' in the war on terror sends the message that millions of non-religious people -- Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and anyone else who does not believe in a god or attend church (roughly half of all Americans) -- is a slacker when it comes to being patriotic."
He added, "As a military veteran, I resent that, and so do other non-believers who have worn the uniform and fought for this country."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.