Sunday, December 07, 2008

Kentucky law states fictional entity responsible for state security

You can't make this stuff up.

My first thought actually was that the article was a hoax, but sure enough, Kentucky Code 39G.010(2)(a) requires the Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to:

Publicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth by including the provisions of KRS 39A.285(3) in its agency training and educational materials. The executive director shall also be responsible for prominently displaying a permanent plaque at the entrance to the state's Emergency Operations Center stating the text of KRS 39A.285(3)
If you're wondering what KRS 39A.285(3) says, here it is:

The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God as set forth in the public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln's historic March 30, 1863, Presidential Proclamation urging Americans to pray and fast during one of the most dangerous hours in American history, and the text of President John F. Kennedy's November 22, 1963, national security speech which concluded: "For as was written long ago: 'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.'"
I was going to bother writing something explaining why this is about a clear a violation of the First amendment as you can have, but I see that Austin Cline has already done so.

The provisions here are religious on a number of levels. First, it requires official endorsement for belief not just in the existence of "a" god, but belief in the existence of a very particular god: the god of western monotheism. The references to "Almighty God" and Pslam 127:1 prevent this from being an endorsement of a very general sort of deity that might theoretically include anything from deism to strict monotheism.

Second, these provisions promote a particular relationship with this deity: people are told that they must trust and rely upon this deity for their security and safety needs. Although it's not made very explicit, the traditions of western religious monotheism teach that this reliance requires absolute submission to the will and desires of this god. It is absolutely necessary for people to have "faith" in God and submit to God in order to receive the "blessings" of security and safety.

Third, a civil servant is co-opted into performing religious duties. When church and state are separated, religious duties are performed by religious authorities within the churches. This would necessarily include promoting the idea that we must be dependent upon God for our security. Here, the state government of Kentucky is assuming the authority to provide people with religious instruction about what sort of relationship they should have with what sort of deity.

Citizens are thus being instructed to become dependent upon and submissive to some alleged god for the sake of their safety rather than become proactive and assuming responsibility for their own well-being. Since there are no gods around speaking to us and giving us instruction, the only way for people to receive instructions from God is through human beings who assume the authority [of government] to speak on behalf of God.
This is why secularists - people believing in a secular government which respects freedom of conscience - should be opposed to such things as "under God" in the Pledge and "In God We Trust" as a national motto. They are used by Christian nationalists to lay the ideological groundwork for subverting democratic government into theocratic government. It's easy to see how once you link state or national security to "reliance upon Almighty God" one could then start making arguments that banning abortion is a matter of national security because otherwise God won't protect the nation (recall Robertson and Fallwell blaming 9/11 on secularists and abortion).

Such provisions and so-called harmless symbolic acknowledgements are a step away from democratic government and a step towards theocratic authoritarianism. That in itself should be enough for alarm, for, paraphrasing Madison, we can see in the principle itself all the consequences, and thus avoid the consequences by negating the principle.

I'm reminded of Roger Ebert on vertical vs. horizontal prayer

This is really an argument between two kinds of prayer--vertical and horizontal. I don't have the slightest problem with vertical prayer. It is horizontal prayer that frightens me. Vertical prayer is private, directed upward toward heaven. It need not be spoken aloud, because God is a spirit and has no ears. Horizontal prayer must always be audible, because its purpose is not to be heard by God, but to be heard by fellow men standing within earshot ... Although some of the horizontal devout are sincere, others use this prayer as a device of recruitment or intimidation. If you are conspicuous in your refusal to go along, they may even turn and pray while holding you directly in their sights.

This simple insight about two kinds of prayer, which is beyond theological question, should bring a dead halt to the obsession with prayer in public places. It doesn't, because the purpose of its supporters is political, not spiritual.


Under Bush we have had a great deal of horizontal prayer, in which we evoke the deity at political events to send the sideways message that our enemies had better look out, because God is on our side. This week's Newsweek cover story reports that the Bush presidency ''is the most resolutely 'faith-based' in modern times.''

Because our enemies are for the most part more enthusiastic about horizontal prayer than we are, and see absolutely no difference between church and state--indeed, want to make them the same--it is alarming to reflect that they may be having more success bringing us around to their point of view than we are at sticking to our own traditional American beliefs about freedom of religion. When Ashcroft and his enemies both begin their days with displays of their godliness, do we feel safer after they rise from their devotions.

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