I can only conclude that "religion" does not mean what I thought it meant.

Because if saying that a governmental goal "cannot be achieved apart from reliance on Almighty God" is not imposing religion, I cannot even begin to fathom what their test is for defining something as "requiring religion". 

This stems from a piece of Kentucky's Antiterrorism Act of 2002, wherein the legislature held that "the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance on Almighty God as set forth in public speeches and proclamations of American Presidents...."  In 2006, this was enhanced by regulations (PDF) requiring the state Department of Homeland Security to publicize this "finding" of the legislature by including the reliance-on-Almighty-God language in its training and educational materials.  These were challenged by American Atheists; a district court judge struck down the provision - rightly concluding that "the General Assembly has created an official government position on God" - then the state took it to the appeals court, which inexplicably held that the language about "Almighty God" is not attempting to compel belief or participation in religious exercise.

Which, um.  To borrow a turn of phrase*, I don't so much beg as command to differ.

The appeals court held that
The Kentucky legislature has not attempted to compel belief or participation in any form of religious exercise, nor does it seek to prefer one belief over another. A simple reference to a generic “God” acknowledges religion in a general way.
The notion of a phrase like "Almighty God" being a "general" reference to religion as a whole can only come from one's vast and unexamined reservoir of Christian privilege.  It's the sort of thing a person would say if they've never really thought of the fact that "religion" is an extremely broad term encompassing dozens or even hundreds of distinct belief structures, only a few of which would use a phrase like "Almighty God" in that context.

Allow me to say this bluntly and explicitly for those who would agree with this finding: "God" is not a religiously-neutral term in any way, shape, form, or fashion, especially when "God" is capitalized and used like a name would be.  The only possible way you could believe that would be if you defined "religion" as meaning "Judaism, Christianity, or Islam", all of which have at the center of their beliefs a singular male deity.  Those are not, however, the only faiths to fall under the umbrella term "religion". 

No, what you mean when you say "God" - especially a phrase like "Almighty God", which is straight out of Christian liturgy - is "religiously neutral" or is "acknowledging religion in a general way", is rather that "God" is nonsectarian, not explicitly indicating a specific denomination of Christianity.  It does, however, explicitly exclude numerous pagan beliefs which either hold no gods (only goddesses), or many gods (none of which would be called capital-G God or Almighty God), or the Wiccan god who would be referred to as *the* God, not "Almighty God".  It explicitly excludes Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

Really, the idea of "Almighty God" as "acknowledging religion in a general way" is utterly absurd, and attempting to defend it as such only shows how deeply ingrained your prejudice and privilege are, that you don't realize that "religion" does not mean "all the denominations of Christianity".

Furthermore, even if the phrase "Almighty God" were truly religiously neutral, to use it in the context it is in - to affirmatively declare that "reliance on Almighty God" is a requirement in order to secure the safety of one's country - is to attempt to compel belief.  Especially when the phrase is then inserted in the training and educational materials given to state personnel, it is an explicit statement of government speech saying "You must believe in Almighty God in order to do your job."

It preferences belief over nonbelief - and what these Christian-supremacist judges seem to forget is that no matter how general a given acknowledgment of religion in government materials is, it will always exclude atheists entirely.  There exists a "none of the above" response when it comes to religion, and that needs to be respected along with all the various shades of religious belief - which means NOT yanking phrases out of Christian prayers and sticking them in government documents. 

This finding is absurd.  It's expected that the case will be appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.  I wish them luck, and I wish for the Kentucky Supreme Court all the logic, reason, and perception that prejudice and privilege stole from the appeals court judges.

*From Inga Muscio's book, Cunt


Teaspoon said...

What the ever-swyving fuck?  This ruling was delivered with a straight face?

Jadelyn said...

Well, I wasn't there, so I can't say for sure.  But they do seem to be taking themselves seriously.  >.<

Teaspoon said...

I wonder if that was their first mistake, or if there were others that preceded it...

Jadelyn said...

Considering these people already got to judge level, I'd say it's safe to assume mistakes were made somewhere along the line.

Teaspoon said...

Heh. I meant I wondered if taking themselves seriously was their first mistake from whence all others sprang, or if the error in taking themselves seriously was built on a foundation of previous errors. ;)

Jadelyn said...

Oh, lol.  Fair enough!

RachelB said...

No, what you mean when you say "God" - especially a phrase like
"Almighty God", which is straight out of Christian liturgy - is
"religiously neutral" or is "acknowledging religion in a general way",
is rather that "God" is nonsectarian, not explicitly indicating a
specific denomination of Christianity.

On top of all the atheist, agnostic, religious, and spiritual people left out by "God"-- The "Almighty" part also excludes those Christians who are theologically uncomfortable using the language of earthly power and principality to refer to the divine (which roughly maps onto the set of Christians I like to hang out with).

What I do not get: If they take their religion seriously, and they mostly think government (and the world in general outside of church) is so corrupt and suspect as to require, oh, say, religiously driven homeschooling, why aren't they strong supporters of the first amendment? They should be trying to keep the (corrupting) government out of their precious religion, and that can only be accomplished by keeping their religion out of the government.

Jadelyn said...

Interesting point - and one I hadn't thought of.  I'm more or less used to Christian prayers which do reference "the Almighty" and that sort of language, but I can see why some Christians would be uncomfortable with it, now you point that out. 

That church-state separation benefits the church as well as the state is something I've long held.  So many far-right Christians are varying degrees of anti-government; so why do you want to open the door to the dirty fingers of government poking about in your church?!  It makes no sense.  I guess they think that church-state entanglement only goes one way.  Which begs the question: Do they, um, not read history at all?  >.<

RachelB said...

Do they, um, not read history at all?

It would appear not. I often think the Christian church gave up a good bit of its moral authority when its practitioners stopped being poor, counter-cultural lion bait and accepted alliance with Charlemagne. To me, Christianity is still at its best when its practitioners are being genuinely persecuted (a la the liberation theologians in Central America in the 1980s).

I have to believe that conservative Christians deep down think so, too, else they wouldn't be so apt to play the persecuted hegemon role.

Jadelyn said...

Oh, my.  I mean, I've seen that attitude before (and blogged about it) but I didn't have a term.  I like "persecuted hegemon".  Thank you!

(I suppose it would be inappropriate to make a hipsteresque "they sold out" joke re: the church gaining power?) 

Thing is, it seems to be the pattern with pretty much every religion.  When their back is to the wall they remain focused on the faith and belief.  As soon as they get a little power, they turn into domineering assholes.  Although perhaps that's not so much a failing of religions as simply a human tendency.  Power corrupts and all that. 

Sarah@APV said...

Yes to this entire post.   Religion and anything to do with country do not and should not be mixed.  I don't understand why some people find that such a difficult concept.


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