Public Policy or Plain Politics
As a sitting attorney general who is also a candidate for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning’s retirement, it is imperative that Jack Conway keep the latter role from affecting his performance in the former.
Throughout the ongoing campaign, every action Conway takes in his official capacity, every opinion his office issues and every case it decides to pursue will be analyzed for potential political impact.
That is the reality he created for himself when he entered the Senate race.
And it is within the framework of that reality that his office’s questionable decision to file an appeal in a religious freedom case must be judged.
At issue is a 2006 statute that required the state Department of Homeland Security to stress in its official reports “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the commonwealth.”
Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate recently ruled that the statute violates the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty.
“This is the very reason the Establishment Clause was created: to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority,” Wingate wrote. “The commonwealth’s history does not exclude God from the statutes, but it had never permitted the General Assembly to demand that its citizens depend on Almighty God.”
It was a reasoned, logical decision that seems likely to be upheld on appeal.
Conway’s office, which defended the statute at the trial level, should have recognized it as such. Instead, it chose to appeal.
At any other time, such a course of action might be criticized as no more than an unwise waste of time and resources.
But now, in the midst of a senatorial campaign, it also raises another question.
How much did Bible Belt politics factor into the decision to take this crusade for the “Almighty God” statute to Kentucky’s higher courts?