Monday, December 8, 2008

Trusting our safety to the government bureaucrats rather than God

A group of atheists is suing the state of Kentucky to overturn a law that requires Kentucky's Homeland Security Office to mention that God is the ultimate guarantor of our safety. The group American Atheists claims that references to God in the law have caused them to suffer sleep disorders and "mental pain and anguish," proving once again that atheists are just not as sturdy as they used to be.

But it isn't just atheists with weak constitutions who are upset, there are a few self-professed Christians who apparently think that when it comes to safety from terrorism, government bureaucrats ought to trust in themselves rather than God.

Tom Eblen at the Lexington Herald-Leader, who touts his own religious credentials, expressed his anger over the law:
I'm furious that tens of thousands of dollars of public money is likely to be spent litigating this obviously unconstitutional attempt to require government to do the work of churches, synagogues and mosques.
Now first of all, it will be news to a lot of people that churches, synagogues, and mosques are the only places in which God can be acknowledged. In fact, millions of people and lots of institutions, many of which are outside places of worship, do it every day.

Secondly, why is it that some of the same people who think it is really silly to acknowledge reliance on God in the state's Homeland Security documents that very few people will see don't seem to be bothered by the fact that we acknowledge it on the nation's coined money that we all carry around in our pockets? Or does Eblen go along with the atheists on this one too?

The comparison of these two issues is not immaterial when it comes to the constitutionality of the law, since the "In God we trust" motto has already been litigated. In Aronow v. United States the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1970 that it was constitutional. He might also check O'Hair v. Blumenthal, as well as the more recent Studler v. Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, in which an Indiana Appeals Court last month upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's "In God we trust" license plates.

Not that courts can't get it wrong, but anyone who says the court did reach the wrong verdict will have to explain what a state law generically acknowledging God has to do with Congress establishing a religion, a provision that Eblen references, but without noticing that it has nothing to do with a) Congress, or b) establishing a religion. If some enterprising person does want to take this up, he might also provide some explanation of the explicitly religious provisions in many state laws to which no one gave a second thought at the time the Bill of Rights was passed.

And, finally, Eblen's claims that the law is bad because of the money it will cost to defend it. How much will it cost to defend this law? Nothing. Zero. Nada. There is no evidence that the Attorney General's office will spend any more money now that they have to defend this law than they would have if the law had never been passed. They're not going to hire any more lawyers to do it, and it is extremely unlikely they're going to work extra hours.

This is government, remember?

In fact, this legal challenge might just give these people something useful to do. The last thing we want is a bunch of government lawyers with too much time on their hands.

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