Thursday, December 4, 2008

Watched From Above?

I was reading the Seattle Times today, and came across an article about a lawsuit launched by an Atheist group over a Kentucky law.

"Of particular concern is a 2006 clause requiring the Office of Homeland Security to post a plaque that says the safety and security of the state 'cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God' and to stress that fact through training and educational materials."
As you might expect, the this ignited an uproar over First Amendment issues. In case you don't remember it:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Okay - but what I would like to know is: What would happen if they didn't? If Kentucky's Director of Homeland Security followed Shinto (for instance), and nixed the plaque, what would the sanction be? Jail time? Firing? Loss of pay?

If an employee were to blow off the trainings because it's legally mandated that they include an acknowledgment of one's helplessness without God, could they be fired?

What if an instructor said that the necessity of God's help in protecting Kentucky (or the rest of us FROM Kentucky) was not a fact, but only a theory - would they be disciplined under this law?

Those are the questions that need to be answered to really understand what the constitutional issues might be. Many religions have quite rigid prohibitions against making overtures to other faiths - does making someone violate that injure their free expression of their chosen religion? But what if your religion doesn't? Can you be forced into nonexclusivity of worship if both faiths allow it? (Not that Christianity is considered to allow it, but it makes an interesting question.)

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