Trigg County

Elena Elisseeva

A non-religious couple is claiming discrimination from a western Kentucky county official who refuses to marry the couple without a religious ceremony.  

Jon and Mandy Heath arranged to marry at the Trigg County Courthouse this month, but say they were informed by Judge Executive Hollis Alexander that he won’t perform the secular ceremony they requested, only a religious one.  

According to the couple's complaint, Alexander told them "I include God in my ceremonies, and I won't do one without him."

Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Minnesota-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, says he sent a letter to Alexander emphasizing that any requirement of a religious ceremony is unconstitutional. “There is a separation of church and state in this country," said Seidel. "Our government cannot require citizens to have a religious ceremony, to say religious language, to engage in any form of religion whatsoever. And that is what this judge was trying to do here.”

Ray Burnam ran for sheriff on a pledge to do whatever he could to settle three unresolved slayings in this tranquil corner of Kentucky. He even dangled his own money as a reward, pledging $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in any of the cases.

What the sheriff got in return was a court order demanding he turn over his findings in one case and claims he’s gone “rogue” as part of a spat with state police. The bad feelings may date back to Burnham’s own departure from the state force, have erupted with tense words in open court and, the prosecutor argues, could jeopardize efforts to prosecute one of the cases. It’s an unusually public dispute between law enforcement agencies.

Burnam, who was elected Trigg County sheriff in 2010, sounds unapologetic about his efforts, driven by his desire to make sure the killers “get what’s coming to them.”

A southwestern Kentucky river is set to undergo testing and farmers and businesses could face more restrictions in an effort to reduce river pollution depending upon the result. The United States Geological Survey will test the Little River, which runs through Trigg and Christian counties and flows into Lake Barkley.