OPINION: In Kentucky, better pray there's no disaster

The departments of homeland security that were created in the wake of 9/11 at the federal level and within each state haven’t exactly engendered a lot of confidence in governments’ abilities to respond to disasters. Just ask anyone along the Gulf Coast.
The response to Katrina was pathetic at its worst, comical at best. But at least they tried. I suppose a toxic FEMA trailer is better than no home at all. And with the recent revelation that the so-called color-coded terror alerts may have been manipulated for political purposes, it makes you wonder if they can actually be trusted at all.
Kentucky, it seems, has literally thrown up its hands and said it’s shifting responsibility for the security of its homeland to someone else, namely God. According to a recent Associated Press article, a judge has ruled that two amendments to the statute creating Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security are unconstitutional because they say the state can never be safe without God’s help.
One amendment required that training materials for the department stress “a dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.” Another ordered that a plaque be installed at the state’s emergency operations center that reads, “the safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”
That’s comforting, but don’t you think you should at least stockpile some bandages and bottled water just in case God is busy that day or has the flu?
Apparently the judge thought so as well. In his ruling that the amendments are unconstitutional, the judge said, “The statute pronounces very plainly that current citizens of the Commonwealth cannot be safe, neither now, nor in the future, without the aid of Almighty God. Even assuming that most of this nation’s citizens have historically depended upon God, by choice, for their protection, this does not give the General Assembly the right to force citizens to do so now.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are no atheists in disaster situations. I’m sure there were a lot of people during Katrina praying for the ability to walk on water. But I think most of them wound up being rescued by boats.
So does this mean that the state of Kentucky is just abdicating any responsibility for responding to a disaster? Surely not. I suspect someone in that state has had the foresight to at least stockpile five loaves and fishes in a vault somewhere just in case.
The whole thing is silly and obviously an attempt to insert religion where it doesn’t belong, as the judge concluded. There’s nothing wrong with praying to God for help during a disaster. But wouldn’t you much rather see a Red Cross truck and some National Guardsmen coming for you?
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.

Marty Russell

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