Provision in Kentucky Law Violates Establishment Clause, Reform Jewish Leader Says
Saperstein: “By mandating a declaration of God’s power as protector of the state as a job requirement, these provisions amount to government-sponsored religious discrimination in hiring. ”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2008 – Recent media reports have brought attention to a little-known provision in the 2006 law establishing Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security, which stresses reliance on God to protect the state. In response, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear:
I write to express my deep concern about two provisions of the 2006 law establishing Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security that have recently come to our attention: chapter 39G.010 and KRS 39A.285. In requiring that the Executive Director of the Office “[stresses] the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth,” and that a plaque bearing that statement be publicly displayed, these provisions present a clear violation of the Kentucky State Constitution and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
By asserting “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God” (emphasis added), the statute distracts from real homeland security challenges by focusing instead on religious beliefs. Furthermore, by mandating a declaration of God’s power as protector of the state as a job requirement, these provisions amount to government sponsored religious discrimination in hiring.
The Reform Jewish Movement has long fought to protect the separation of church and state both for its own sake, and as an indispensable means of preserving religious liberty. We defend the rights of people of all faith and of no faith alike to provide for the security of this country without having to pass a “religious test” to do so.
I ask you, Governor Beshear, to do all that is in your power to eliminate actions and laws of the Kentucky government that require reliance on God to ensure the security of the State-- and to remove the plaque that publicizes these provisions.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your reply.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America
encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis,
whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.