In a petition, attorney Edwin Kagin argued that Kentucky lawmakers disregarded the constitutional prohibition against public sponsorship of religion, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal reported Sunday.
At issue is a law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which a 2002 "legislative finding" said the "safety and security of the commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God," The Courier-Journal said. A 2006 act that created Kentucky's Office of Homeland Security required its leadership to publicize "dependence on Almighty God" in training and educational materials, as well as in plaques.
In 2008, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate upheld a challenge, ruling the state "created an official government position on God."
The state Court of Appeals in 2011 voted 2-1 to reverse the decision, saying the law "merely pays lip service to a commonly held belief" in the power of God.
The Kentucky Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
In his petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kagin wrote, "This new legislation should not be swept under the ceremonial deism rug, especially as it ostracizes atheists from politics."
The legislation, Kagin wrote, implies that atheists are "dangerous to the post-9/11 security of the Commonwealth" while contributing to "bias and stereotypes about atheists," and was part of a broader "misguided push to improperly mix religion and government" by Kentucky lawmakers.