Monday, January 05, 2009

NY Times Derides Christian Legislator

“The church-state divide is not a line I see. What I do see is an attempt to separate America from its history of perceiving itself as a nation under God,” [says Tom Riner, a Baptist minister and Democrat Kentucky legislator for 26 years.]

-- From "Lawmaker in Kentucky Mixes Piety and Politics" by Ian Urbina, New York Times 01/04/09

In December, an atheist organization and a group of state residents sued Kentucky over Mr. Riner’s most recent incursion: a 2006 law he sponsored requiring that the state’s homeland security office post a plaque recognizing God’s role in keeping the country safe.

“Tom is as pious as he is persistent,” said State Senator Kathy W. Stein, a Democrat from Lexington. “He’s also prone to legislative stunts that are embarrassing and expensive for this state.”

While many Kentuckians see the religious displays as an antidote to what they view as the growing immorality in society, Mr. Riner cites the displays as a bulwark against the drift by teachers and politicians away from the historical role that God played in the thinking of the nation’s forefathers.

“If we don’t affirm the right to recognize divine providence, then that right will disappear,” Mr. Riner said. “It’s part of our history. Whether we believe it personally or not, it’s what America is.”

Mr. Riner’s law involving the homeland security office says that its initial duty should be “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”

The plaque that the law required the office to post has an 88-word statement that begins: “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”

Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, said Mr. Riner’s measures rarely faced resistance in the legislature.

“Politicians are afraid of attack ads that will say they voted against God if they vote against measures like the ones that Riner puts up,” Mr. Cross said.

But for all their devotion, the Riners miss a basic point, said Ms. Stein, the State Assembly’s only Jewish member. “Just because the nation’s forefathers held certain views about God,” she said, “does not mean that all of those views fit today’s more diverse context.”

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.