Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A Little Good Sense

There doesn't seem to be a lot of it in the Kentucky state legislature but there may be enough to keep that less-than-august body from shooting the state's taxpayers in the foot. As Americans United for Separation of Church and State is reporting:

The legislature's latest debacle involves an aggressive effort to keep a "Hell is real" billboard standing beside a major interstate highway.

The privately funded "Hell" billboard is positioned near Interstate 65 in Larue County. State officials say the sign should come down because it violates state and federal billboard laws.

"It had nothing to do with the message," said Chuck Wolfe of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. "It was just the cabinet's position that they are illegal because of their placement and the potential for distraction. That's a highway safety issue."

The billboard drew particular notice after the Federal Highway Administration sent a letter reminding state officials of the provisions of the federal Highway Beautification Act. That statute mandates that states must keep effective control of outdoor advertisements or risk losing some federal money for many transportation-related programs.

In other words, keeping the billboard standing could end up penalizing the state $42 million in federal funds.
Costing the state treasury $42 million was not about to deter State Rep. Johnny Bell:

Feeling that the billboard needed to be saved, he introduced a bill that would exempt religious and "non-commercial" messages on private property from the state Transportation Cabinet's permitting process. (This came despite the fact that a judge has ruled the "Hell" billboard to be advertising and subject to the same laws as commercial billboards.)

Bell's bill sailed through the House by an 80-16 vote and headed for the Senate.
Fortunately for taxpayers, some senators, including Senate President David Williams, seem to believe that saving $42 million might be a tad more important than saving a billboard that happens to have a religious message for the moment and have promised that the bill "is not going anywhere."

Sometimes even a little good sense is enough.

Assuming this bill got passed, there's a golden opportunity for a secular group to put up a "Probably No God" or "Good Without God" billboard, in a location that would fall under the exemption.

And see just how fast that law gets repealed ;-).
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