Published December 15, 2011
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security relies on surveillance, vigilance, and intrusive airport screeners to keep Americans safe.
But in the state of Kentucky that's not good enough, according to state Rep. Tom Riner, an ordained Baptist minister who supports a 2006 state law requiring all homeland security documents to recognize humanity's dependence on God.
"The safety and security of the state cannot be achieved apart from recognizing our dependence upon God," Riner told Fox News recently near his home in Louisville.
"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.
Edwin Kagin, an atheist who is now suing Kentucky over the law, disagrees.
"Oh, it requires much more than that," he said.
Commonwealth law commands the state's Department of Homeland Security to prominently display a plaque outside its offices that says: "The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God."
State law also requires all department literature to state the same.
"It's outrageous," said Kagin. "It is something that is specifically prohibited by the constitutions of both the United States and Kentucky."
Kagin said the requirement sounds like something more likely to be demanded by religious extremists in the Middle East.
"What if the law said we cannot be safe without reliance on Allah, perhaps, or the flying spaghetti monster or anything you could come up with?" he said. "A law such as this is a step toward establishing a theocracy in our state."
In his lawsuit, Kagin claims that Kentucky is forcing religion on its citizens as well as on a federal agency.
"The Constitution states that there shall be no attempt by the government respecting an establishment of a religion and that's precisely what (Riner's law) is doing," he said.
Riner insists Kentucky is on firm legal ground.
"Every one of your presidents have stated that it is impossible to govern our nation without the assistance of Almighty God," Riner said, "and that has been part of our American creed."
Riner said he took the sentiment right out of the Declaration of Independence.
"In that document, it sets forth the need for men to understand that our protection, our rights come from God, not government," he said. "That's why our national Motto is 'In God We Trust' -- because (God) is our ultimate source of trust."
"A motto is not a law," countered Kagin, "and the reverend representative knows that. Making it a law changes everything.
“We were founded," Kagin continued, "so no one religion can be established in this country including religion over non-religion."
Not so, Riner said, He is hoping the state fights the lawsuit vigorously.
"Trusting God is our heritage. We will not surrender that heritage, which is a heritage of looking to Almighty God for His blessing."