FFRF reprimands Kentucky Statehouse for religious resolution

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is chastising the Kentucky Legislature for a theocratic joint resolution.

The Kentucky Senate and House passed SR 294 and HR 218, respectively, which are essentially identical and resolve to “include ‘in the Year of our Lord’ in the date of all [Senate/House] floor citations.” The purpose is to promote Christianity.

This religious purpose is evident from the resolutions’ poor and selective reading of history and from the statements of legislators on the bill. For instance, state Sen. Albert Robinson gave his reason for sponsoring SR 294 as offering deference and appreciation to the God it mentions: “I’m also trying anywhere and everywhere I can to respect our creator.”

Perhaps the simplest way to see the clear religious purpose of the joint resolution is to substitute another religion. Would citizens and this legislature be so sanguine about approving a measure to use “in the Year of Allah” or “in the Year of Muhammad, peace be unto him”?

The examples the drafters of the resolution chose are highly selective, stretching and searching and scraping the bottom of the historical barrel for support. For instance, the resolution cites an obscure government document of Thomas Jefferson that has no legal or historical relevance, instead of the Declaration of Independence, which does not use the “Year of our Lord” dating convention, or the “Jefferson bible,” a bible from which Jefferson excised — with a razor — every mention of Jesus as a divine lord and savior. Jefferson refused to issue religious proclamations because “no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government.”

The joint resolution also presents the fact that “Kentucky’s 1891 Constitution was dated in the Year of our Lord,” but neglects to mention that Kentucky’s 1792 Constitution and 1799 Constitution do not use the phrase.

Perhaps most dismaying, however, is the resolution’s reference to the U.S. Constitution. It claims that the “Year of our Lord” appears in the date appended at the end of the original Constitution. There is a fascinating story behind how this language ended up on the final parchment that now rests in the National Archives. The “Year of Our Lord” language was not debated or ratified by the Constitutional Convention and it seems unlikely that it was even approved by the delegates. In fact, it’s not actually even part of the Constitution itself, which ends at Article VII. Most importantly, the framers of the secular Constitution and most citizens did not view the language as having any religious significance at the time. In all likelihood, the scribe added it as a mere formality.

“This resolution is ill conceived, poorly researched, and intended to promote Christianity,” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes to Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Jeff Hoover. “Kentucky is attempting to instill religious significance into a phrase that, in the eyes of our Framers, had none. If this Legislature took its sworn duty to uphold the Constitution seriously, it would not have passed the resolution.” 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, dedicated to the separation of state and church, has more than 28,000 nonreligious members and chapters nationally, including members and a chapter in Kentucky.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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