(CN) – Kentucky can’t force citizens to rely on God for protection, a state judge ruled, striking down a portion of a Kentucky security law that refers to “dependence on Almighty God.”
A provision of a law created by the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security requires its executive director to “[p]ublicize the findings of the General Assembly stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”
Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled Wednesday that the reference to providence violates the constitutional ban on government-backed religion.
“The state pronounces very plainly that current citizens of the Commonwealth cannot be safe, neither now, nor in the future, without the aid of Almighty God,” Judge Wingate wrote in his 18-page opinion.
“Even assuming that most of this nation’s citizens have historically depended upon God, by choice, for their protection, this does not give the General Assembly the right to force citizens to do so now.
“The Commonwealth’s history does not exclude God from the statutes, but it has never permitted the General Assembly to demand that its citizens depend on Almighty God,” Wingate added.
Ten Kentucky residents and the American Atheists Inc., a national atheist group, had challenged the law as a violation of the state and federal Constitutions.
The Almighty God language was inserted by state Rep. Tom Riner, a Democrat, who pastors a Baptist church in Louisville.
Riner told the Associated Press that he planned to ask Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to appeal the decision.
“They make the argument … that it has to do with a religion and promoting a religion,” Riner told the AP. “God is not a religion. God is God.”