Imagine that accusatory baritone so familiar in political commercials: "Justice (Fill in the Blank) took Almighty God out of Kentucky law."
It's easy to understand why Kentucky's Supreme Court would rather take a dive than rule on an issue that's custom made for demagogic attack ads.
After all, the justices do have to stand for election.
And, truth be told, we'd rather have any of the sitting seven than a challenger who would resort to that kind of attack.
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Still it's disappointing that the court wimped out by refusing to consider a law that requires a state agency to publicly declare that "dependence on Almighty God" is responsible for Kentucky's safety.
As Senior Judge Ann O'Malley Shake wrote in a Court of Appeals dissent, the law was enacted for a predominantly religious purpose and conveyed a message of mandatory religious belief, making it a violation of constitutional protections against government-sponsored religion.
At issue are a legislative finding enacted in 2002 and a provision in a 2006 state law, quietly inserted by Rep. Tom Riner, requiring the state Office of Homeland Security to post a plaque outside its emergency operations headquarters declaring that Kentucky's safety depends on "Almighty God."
The law also requires the agency to acknowledge "dependence on Almighty God" in its official publications.
In the majority opinion upholding the law, Court of Appeals Judge Laurance VanMeter wrote that the reference is to "a generic 'God'" and doesn't "seek to prefer one belief over another."
But, as Shake, pointed out, the law has criminal penalties, including up to 12 months in jail, for anyone who fails to comply.
Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate overturned the law. So we have two judges who say it's unconstitutional and two judges who say it's not.
This would seem to be an issue in need of Supreme Court wisdom.
There's a larger, more troubling question, though: Why do so many Kentucky lawmakers and politicians disrespect the constitutional boundary that has long set this country apart from tyrannical theocracies.