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One way to change worldview perceptions is to keep people ignorant. The public schools have done a great job in shifting worldview thinking from theism to humanism right under the noses of parents who extol the virtues of America’s government education system. Consider how textbooks handle the subject of religion in the founding of America. One elementary school social studies book has thirty pages of material “on the Pilgrims,” Paul Vitz writes, “including the first Thanksgiving. But there is not one word (or image) that referred to religion as even a part of the Pilgrims’ life. One mother whose son is in a class using this book wrote . . . that he came home and told her that ‘Thanksgiving was when the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians.’ The mother called the principal of this suburban New York City school to point out that Thanksgiving was when the Pilgrims thanked God. The principal responded by saying ‘that was her opinion’—the schools could only teach what was in the books!” I suspect that the teaching of America’s Christian history has not improved much since Vitz did his study.
The religious sanitation of history textbooks is beginning to pay off for atheists. “A group of atheists filed a lawsuit . . . seeking to remove part of a state anti-terrorism law that requires Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge it can’t keep the state safe without God’s help.” These atheists are hoping that a majority of Kentuckians are ignorant of their state’s religious history as well as the history of similar national proclamations acknowledging God’s providence. A plaque has been posted at the Kentucky Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort that includes the following from Psalm 127:1: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” The first part of this Psalm was used by Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention to remind the delegates that “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it.” Of course, atheists object to such language, and they “pray” that there are only a few people who know enough history to counter their spurious arguments.
Edwin F. Kagin, the national legal director of American Atheists offered this comment on the wording found on the plaque: “It is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I’ve ever seen.” No it’s not. Kagin and his atheist group claim the law violates Kentucky’s state constitution and the United States Constitution. No it doesn’t. There certainly is no violation of the United States Constitution since the First Amendment prohibits “Congress” from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since Congress didn’t make the law and post the plaque, there is no violation. (Then there are all those religious plaques posted all around our nation’s Capital.) Anyway, acknowledging God is not “an establishment of religion,” and prohibiting the acknowledgment of God would violate the constitutional provision not to “prohibit the free exercise” of religion.
It is a “state anti-terrorism law,” and the First Amendment as it was originally conceived applies to protect the states from Federal interference. This is why state constitutions added their own provisions related to religious freedom and expression. For example, in Article I of Alabama’s 1819 constitution, there are five sections related to religion. Kentucky’s Constitution expands on religious issues far beyond what the Federal Constitution says about religion (see Section 5). Why do any of this if the First Amendment applied to the states in prohibiting them from making any religious directive?
There is the further problem of what presidents did at the national level regarding acknowledging the sovereignty of God in the affairs of the nation related to “homeland security.” Consider the following from the 1812 Proclamation calling for Prayer and Humiliation signed by James Madison, president from 1809 to 1817, during the time of war:
I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next, as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering to the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of mankind, the public homage due to his holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasures; of seeking His merciful forgiveness, His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment; and especially of offering fervent supplications, that in the present season of calamity and war, He would take the American People under his peculiar care and protection; that He would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism, and bestow His blessing on their arms; that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord, and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion, to do to others as they would require others to do to them; and finally, that, turning the hearts of our enemies from the violence and injustice which sway their councils against us, He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of Peace.
The Proclamation closes with these words: “Given at Washington the 9th day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twelve.” Note the phrase “in the year of our Lord,” a reference to Jesus Christ. The same phrase appears in the United States Constitution. So then, it is neither unusual nor unconstitutional for either the national government or state governments to acknowledge God in times of war and crisis. James Madison, the architect of the Constitution didn’t seem to object since he signed the Proclamation! Kagin and the American Atheists can take up their complaint with him.
Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, makes this foolish statement: “I’m not aware of any other state or commonwealth that is attempting to dump their clear responsibility for protecting their citizens onto God or any other mythological creature.” I don’t know anyone who would argue that by calling on God for protection that it follows that all possible human means for self-defense should be dismantled. This comment shows a great deal of theological and historical ignorance. Buckner knows better, but he’s counting on the premise that the majority of Kentuckians are ignorant enough to believe his absurd claim.
The Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution reads as follows: “We, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy, and invoking the continuance of these blessings, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” How is it possible that recognizing God’s providence in an anti-terrorism provision is a violation of Kentucky’s constitution when that same constitution recognizes God and His providence in establishing the political and religious liberties of Kentuckians? I don’t see the logic of making God unconstitutional when the constitution itself gives Him credit for objective “blessings” to the people of the state.
Will the American Atheists get their way? Not if enough Kentuckians and their judicial representatives know something of this nation’s religious history.