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Phew! Kentucky’s ‘God plaque’ law won’t be used to jail atheists

DESPITE the fact that good ol’ Kentucky is so devout that it felt compelled to introduce a “God plaque” law to protect its security, Kentucky atheist Ricky Smith recently succeeded in putting a stop to religious babbling at public meetings in his native Boyle County – and quickly became the victim of a hate campaign.

Ricky Smith

Ricky Smith

According to this report, Smith had a quiet word with Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney about the issue of Judeo-Christian prayers during public meetings. As a result, county magistrates voted to change the invocation to a “moment of silence”.

Smith had attended several fiscal court sessions because he hoped to run for political office. But he was made to feel like a “second-class citizen” during the prayer portion of the meeting. He said:

Being expected to pray just to be a part of local government is not going to work for me, nor would it work for Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, pagans or Wiccans.

Smith did not plan to become a militant advocate for the separation of church and state. He met privately with McKinney and unsuccessfully attempted several times to meet with Danville Mayor Bernie Hunstad about the prayers conducted at Danville City Commission meetings.

Even though Smith deliberately did not express his views publicly, an unknown person using the website Topix “outed” Smith as an atheist and the man who killed public prayer at Fiscal Court meetings.

A former friend also made disparaging remarks about Smith on Facebook, and a few people made harassing telephone calls to his residence, he said.

 They’re getting down right mean. 

He noted that if ridiculing a man’s weight and lack of religious beliefs is a proper Christian attitude, then he is now even more convinced that atheism is the right path for his life.

I’ve become a better person since I realized I was an atheist. I am much more tolerant now.

When Smith was attending Christian church services, he felt “brainwashed” into being prejudiced against all homosexuals as well as heterosexual people who had premarital sex. He asserted:

People are not understanding that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. We are in a diverse country.

Smith said he and other taxpayers who are not Christians should not have their money used for promoting Christianity, especially since the US Constitution mandates the separation of church and state. He hopes the Fiscal Court will continue the “moment of silence” and stop having prayer meetings in the fiscal courtroom before the official sessions.

Smith does not intend to stop fighting for the cause despite the insults and borderline threats made against him, but hopes people who have similar beliefs will also come forward.

According to this report, Kentucky’s law requires that plaques celebrating the power of the Almighty God be installed outside the state Homeland Security building. The text of the inscription on the plaques begins with the assertion:

The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.

The law is part of a Kentucky state homeland security bill that passed in 2008. Disobey it and you face a jail 12-month jail sentence.

Edwin Kagin, legal director of American Atheists, said:

This is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen.

Earlier this month American Atheists submitted a petition to the US Supreme Court to review the law.

Truthdig reports that although the law clearly violates the First Amendment’s separation of church and state, the Kentucky state Supreme Court has refused to review its constitutionality.

When headlines suggested that the law was designed to smack down atheists, the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security got the hump, and made it clear that citizens of the state would not be jailed for being non-believers. The office wrote:

It is true that we do have a law in Kentucky that mandates that the executive director of the Office of Homeland Security publish a reference to ‘Almighty God’ in regards to the ‘safety and security of the Commonwealth’, which appears as a plaque at the entrance of the Emergency Operations Center.

Violating this law, or any other statues required by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, could result in being found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to one year in jail.

The genius behind the law is Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and the long-time Democratic state representative.

Loopy Baptist Tom Riner

Loopy Baptist Tom Riner

“The church-state divide is not a line I see,” Riner told The New York Times shortly after the law was first challenged in court.
What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.
Riner sticks to his faith like shit to a blanket – even when it directly conflicts with his job as state representative. He has often been at the center of unconstitutional and expensive controversies throughout his 26 years in office.
In the last ten years, for example, the state has spent more than $160,000 in string of lost court cases against the American Civil Liberties Union over the state’s decision to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings – legislation that Riner sponsored.

13 Responses to “Phew! Kentucky’s ‘God plaque’ law won’t be used to jail atheists”

  1. RabbitOnAStick says:

    “What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God.”

    Umm! if one ignores the peoples already living in the US for thousands of years, and the present dominant immigrants consistently do do that, the latest flow of immigrants, 1600 onwards etc went to the US to be free from religious persecution.

    That moron Rinmer couldn’t be more wrong.

  2. AgentCormac says:

    I knew I’d seen Riner somewhere else.

    Link here.

  3. barriejohn says:

    Actuallly, although an atheist myself, I do take a very dim view of anyone who dares violate a statue!

  4. barriejohn says:

    Fucking statues!

    Tom Riner said: “The church-state divide is not a line I see”. Can you believe that – a state representative who doesn’t acknowledge the American Constitution!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/us/04louisville.html?_r=1&

  5. Matt Westwood says:

    I’m not a statue fucker I’m the statue fucker’s mate
    I’m only fucking statues ‘cos the statue fucker’s late

  6. chrsbol says:

    Has that lion no bloody pride?

  7. barriejohn says:

    This blog gets rather silly at times!

    http://www.thezooom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Statue-on-the-phone.jpg

    “Statue?”

  8. barriejohn says:

    Chrsbol: He’s feline very sheepish!

  9. Marky Mark says:

    (using the website Topix)

    …I have had my bouts at this forum with the “Christian” who support child killer Hope Rippey and Melinda Loveless because they “found Gaud” while incarcerated. And the Christians want them released. Not to mention how they profit through Bush’s “Faith Based Initiative”
    Topix has went beyond any sort of non-bias point of view since they gave full control to these Christians (with political help I’m sure) to delete any of their incriminating posts, but leave the slanderous posts against us, or anyone that disagrees with their magical, tyrannical, point of view. The lying, slanderous post against me on Topix shows up as the first link when someone searches my name…and it is intended to bring me harm.
    This is what a theocracy looks like…condemn any other point a view.

    (He noted that if ridiculing a man’s weight and lack of religious beliefs is a proper Christian attitude, then he is now even more convinced that atheism is the right path for his life.)
    …I have seen them do the same thing at Topix to the good woman who started a petition to keep Melinda Loveless in prison. All while saying “Only god can judge”.

    Boycott Topix!

    (Smith said he and other taxpayers who are not Christians should not have their money used for promoting Christianity, especially since the US Constitution mandates the separation of church and state.)
    …“Prison Fellowship Ministries” is far more dangerous than people think. I’m finding evidence that their business model is to incarcerate as many people as possible for non-violent crimes, than force them to convert to Christianity while incarcerated. With tax dollars they receive through federal grants thanks to Faith Based Initiative programs.
    They release high profile offenders like Rippey because it gives them much credibility amongst the inmates. More inmates in their prison programs, the more federal money they receive. And like all religious orgs, the top people skim for themselves first.

    (The law is part of a Kentucky state homeland security bill that passed in 2008. Disobey it and you face a jail 12-month jail sentence.) = Join our religion and give us your cash or go to prison

  10. Robster says:

    Is “God plaque” that gooey stuff you get on teeth? The patron saint of flouride can fix the issue I’ve read.

  11. John A says:

    barriejohn: I enjoyed reading the NY Times article from the link you posted for us; the ending was a brahma and made me smile. Ms. Stein made a salient point and the following paragraph and concluding sentence seemed to hammer it home.

  12. barriejohn says:

    John A: Actually, I realized after posting that comment that Barry had provided the self-same link in his article!