Noah’s Ark: New Symbol of Southern Politics?

Who knew that Noah’s Ark was going to be a major American news item? The country’s at war, the economy is dismal, the electorate is aroused, and the press is babbling about … Noah’s Ark. We can’t figure out whether this is denial or dementia.

What — you don’t know what we’re talking about? Okay, here’s some background: This is about the recently-announced Noah’s Ark theme park to be built in Kentucky and named Ark Encounter. It’s the latest scheme being promoted by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the Australian creationist who brought you Answers in Genesis (AIG) and the mind-boggling Creation Museum.

As we recently posted (see Kentucky’s Governor Is a Flaming Idiot), Governor Steve Beshear — a Democrat — not only appeared with ol’ Hambo at the official announcement of the new park, but he’s also trying to get the project some special tax incentives.

Okay, now you know what’s going on. The New York Times has a long piece on the proposed Kentucky project. See In Kentucky, Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is Planned. All the information is there, but the article is quite neutral in tone. We didn’t realize the Times could do that.

But it’s different in Kentucky. The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky isn’t neutral at all. We earlier posted Editorial Opposes Gov. Beshear & Noah’s Ark. Now they have a column by Joseph Gerth titled Beshear sails risky waters for ark park.

Gerth is good — he coulda been a blogger! We want you to click over there to read it all for yourself, so here are just a few excerpts, with bold added by us:

The announced plan for the state to help fund a $150 million monument to fundamentalist religious belief in Grant County has unified liberals, moderates and even some conservatives on one theological question:

What in God’s name is Gov. Steve Beshear thinking?

We told you this guy was good. Let’s read on:

Some have questioned whether the state can legally offer the incentives, which would basically be a refund of sales taxes collected on tickets, food and other items sold at the park.

The Beshear administration has defended those tax incentives, saying that because they are available to groups of all faiths, the incentives do not run counter to the First Amendment, which has been interpreted to provide for a separation of church and state.

Creationists never see any constitutional impediment to their theocratic plans. We continue:

If there is a constitutional problem with the incentives, the problem may be more with the Kentucky Constitution, which says no one should be “compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion.”

Your Curmudgeon is very impressed. We’ve been writing about The Controversy between evolution and creationism for almost three years now, and this is the first time we’ve seen anyone in the press refer to his own state’s Constitution. Here’s more:

[Gov. Steve Beshear] seems to be courting a segment of the population that is not likely to back a Democrat — especially this Democrat. Remember, it was Beshear, who as attorney general in 1981, wrote that the Ten Commandments had to come down in Kentucky classrooms.

We didn’t know that. Beshear seems to be fixing an old defect in his Luddite appeal.

In a strategic way, this reminds us of Alabama Governor George Wallace. After losing an election early in his career, he decided that he lost because he hadn’t been segregationist enough; and he vowed that no one would ever defeat him on that issue again. No one ever did. You may disagree, but we’re starting to suspect that creationism has replaced segregation as a regional campaign issue.

Here’s one more excerpt, and then you’re on your own:

Beshear’s spokeswoman said it would bring “a boatload of jobs” to the state, while one Capitol wag joked that Beshear had promised to bring more jobs to the state “come hell or high water.”

The question is, will it help him hold on to his.

No one in Kentucky is going to surpass Steve Beshear when it comes to Noah’s Ark! Paraphrasing Wallace, Beshear’s next campaign slogan will be: “I say creationism today, creationism tomorrow, creationism forever!”

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Noah’s Ark: New Symbol of Southern Politics?

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    I’m not sure that the tax incentives are counter to Kentucky’s constitution–Noah’s Ark is the common property of all the Abrahamic faiths as well as the Sumerians and Babylonians, if you can find any, so I don’t know what faith is thereby “established”. It seems to me that a museum built around a historical Noah’s Ark is no more a place of worship than a museum exhibiting statues of Greek gods.

    Not the best use of Kentucky’s tax incentives in a year when every state is desperately seeking Federal bailouts, certainly. But constitutions are not magic wands to right wrongs and smarten stupids.

  2. When is Allahland getting its tax break? I presume the Governor has agreed to launch it too.

    I despair for America. (And I speak as a bankrupt Irishman!)

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    When is Allahland getting its tax break?

    Perhaps the Islamic Center proposed to New York City will relocate if it doesn’t get the government money its Muslim backers are asking for?

    If there were enough Muslims in Kentucky to be worth pandering to I’m sure the governor would find it worthwhile.

    At any right, a comparison to an imaginary “Allahland” doesn’t address my point at all, that Noah’s Ark does not belong to only one denomination (which is what the Establishment is about) and a museum based on it is not a “place of worship”.

  4. Oh, come on, Gabriel. Exactly what group of religions is building this park?
    It’s so blatantly fundamentalist xian that anyone saying otherwise is a bit off his rocker.

    But, OK, I’ll concede, let’s just say it’s establishing faiths rather than a single faith.

  5. What bothers me even more than the tax break is that Gerth hastily wrote:

    “Science generally holds that dinosaurs died off about 65 million years ago and that man and his ancestors have been around for about 2.5 million years.”

    Generally holds??? The evidence that dinosaurs died off about 65 million is so overwhelming that even many creationists (“progressive” OECs and most IDers) concede it. And surely he knows that “man and his ancestors” have been around for over 3.5 billion years. I’m guessing that he was thinking “tool making ancestors.” But unless that is made clear, many readers will infer an independent origin of our lineage. And they will be oblivious to the fact that the evidence of man’s common ancestry with all other eukaryotes (at least) is so overwhelming that even some creationists (IDers) concede it.

  6. @Lynn:

    establishing faiths rather than a single faith.

    Which is a contradiction in terms. If they’re ALL the “state church” then in what meaningful sense are any of them are?

    Lots of things appeal to fundamentalist Christians, but Noah’s Ark is not exclusive to them, and there isn’t anything in Kentucky’s constitution that forbids funding a museum that appeals to Christians among other people, since a museum is not a minister or a place of worship or a state church.

  7. Gabriel Hanna

    @Lynn:

    establishing faiths rather than a single faith.

    Which is a contradiction in terms. If they’re ALL the “state church” then in what meaningful sense are any of them are?

    Lots of things appeal to fundamentalist Christians, but Noah’s Ark is not exclusive to them, and there isn’t anything in Kentucky’s constitution that forbids funding a museum that appeals to Christians among other people, since a museum is not a minister or a place of worship or a state church.

  8. Which is a contradiction in terms. If they’re ALL the “state church” then in what meaningful sense are any of them are?

    Gabriel, you aren’t seriously arguing that the more religions the state financially supports, the less it establishes religion…are you?

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    @Eric:

    Not quite. What I’m disputing is that a tax incentive for a museum specifically about Noah’s Ark is an “establishment” of ANY faith.

    But as long as we give the government authority to single out business for tax advantages, then we have to live with the fact that they will pick ones we disagree with. However, it does not mean that it’s ILLEGAL for them to do that. It’s perfectly legal, even though it’s stupid.

  10. The flood story might be a feature common to many faiths, but most of them interpret it as simply a myth or an allegory of some sort. The literalist interpretation of the story that will be portrayed by the AiG and “Ark Encounter” is peculiar to fundamentalist, evangelical, young-earth creationists. In this case, it will be the specific christian brand promoted by AiG. They will attempt to raise their $24.5M to build the Ark by promoting it as part of their ministry.

    I don’t see how this can be viewed as anything other than a evangelical outreach program by AiG and it’s allies.

    I still want to know who the investors are in “Ark Encounter, LLC”. That might also shed some light on the issue.

  11. Gabriel: But as long as we give the government authority to single out business for tax advantages, then we have to live with the fact that they will pick ones we disagree with. However, it does not mean that it’s ILLEGAL for them to do that. It’s perfectly legal, even though it’s stupid.

    Here is the flaw in your argument: like it or not, whether its fair or not, the 1st amendment singles out religious institutions as things that are to be treated distinctly different compared to other businesses. The states are not allowed to be involved in them to the same extent and in the same ways the state may become involved in nonreligious institutions. This is not a matter of the state giving a tax break to a corporation I disagree with, this is a matter of the state giving a tax break to a group it is constitutionally required to avoid entangling itself with.

    Now to be honest I don’t know enough about this particular situation to know whether its legal or not. It could be. But your argument that AIG should be treated as any other business or NGO fails because the constitution itself does not treat religious organizations as any other business/NGO.

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    the 1st amendment singles out religious institutions as things that are to be treated distinctly different compared to other businesses.

    And a museum/theme park is not a religious institution, nor is the private LLC that is building it.

    There is no group involved in building the Ark Encounter which is a “religion” being “established”, and nothing being built by it is a “religion” which is being “established”.

    “Fundamentalists” who believe in a literal Noah’s Ark come from many different religions. There is no religion of Fundamentalism.

    The Establishment Clause does not exist for the purpose of hounding religious people out of public life or denying them things the government makes available. It exists to prevent the government from privileging a religion. Noah’s Ark is a an element common to many religions.

  13. Gabriel Hanna

    Like it or not, AIG is a 501(c3) nonprofit and has the same rights the others have.

  14. Gabriel Hanna says:

    The Establishment Clause does not exist for the purpose of hounding religious people out of public life or denying them things the government makes available. It exists to prevent the government from privileging a religion.

    Churches and clergy are exempt from state and federal taxes. Agree or not, there seems to be no First Amendment problem with that. If a church itself can be exempt from taxes, so can a replica of Noah’s Ark. I do, however, see a problem in letting a church collect sales taxes, and then having the state share that revenue with the church. That looks like a cash subsidy paid out of the treasury. But as has been pointed out, the proposed park isn’t a church. The tax incentives being proposed will probably be legal. I’d like to be wrong in this.

  15. The first sentence in AIG’s description of itself reads: “Answers in Genesis is an apologetics (i.e., Christianity-defending) ministry, dedicated to enabling Christians to defend their faith and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively.”

    It is an explicitly religious organization. It aggressively defends itself as a religious organization because doing so allows it to discriminate against potential employees based on faith. For example, each employee at the Creation Museum must sign a statement of faith laying out a belief in biblical inerrancy, young-earth creationism, and the divinity of Jesus Christ. There are 28 numbered points in its statement of faith that employees of their museum must sign, and taken together, they absolutely do NOT represent “many different religions,” they represent a single very narrow type of Christianity.

    No non-religious corporation can discriminate in that manner. That is not a 501(c3) benefit, it is a benefit we give only to religious organizations.

    IMO, any group that wants to get the benefits of a religion should also take the hits that entails. Your organization want to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion? Okay, then the government should not be entangling itself with you. It is not “hounding religious people” to require their non-profit businesses to play by the rules that all other non-profit businesses play by if they want to receive government benefits.

  16. “Governor Steve Beshear — a Democrat”

    It’s interesting that some Democrats are as retarded and theocratic as Republicans.

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    @eric:

    It is an explicitly religious organization.

    501(c3): Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/501%28c%29

    Doesn’t matter how much you don’t like it, eric: they have the same rights as any other 501(c3).

    For example, each employee at the Creation Museum must sign a statement of faith laying out a belief in biblical inerrancy, young-earth creationism, and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

    So they can accept some Baptists but not others, some Methodists but not others, some Catholics but not others–which means that they do not limit themselves to members of only one religion.

    No non-religious corporation can discriminate in that manner.

    a) There’s no religious discrimination, as I pointed out, because there is no religion identified with AIG’s position, and

    b) if Cato Institute can fire people for being insufficiently libertarian, why can’t AIG fire people for not taking the Bible literally?

    Okay, then the government should not be entangling itself with you.

    AIG is not the only group building the theme park. You want religious people excluded from partaking in any government benefit, then you get enough people to agree with you that they pass a Constitutional amendment to that effect.

    The fact that the people who are building the park are religious-of many different denominations, in fact-does not mean they can’t the same tax break other people are getting.

  18. @Gabriel

    Belief in biblical inerrancy and the divinity of Jesus means Christian. No other religion believes the divinity of Jesus or the inerrancy of the New Testament. I don’t believe it matters which particular branch of Christianity is at stake – just the promotion of Christianity vs, for example, Islam or Judaism, would be sufficient to show government support of a specific religion.

    If they think they can make money preaching to people, fine, but I don’t think the state should support it with the citizen’s treasury.

  19. I’d like the Ark Park or it’s tax breaks to be illegal and I disapprove of Ken Ham’s message but my concerns are not specifically about the message. My questions are: 1)Do other theme parks receive tax breaks? 2) Will the Ark Park draw enough tourists to Kentucky to make the tax break an intelligent choice?

    Ham’s museum does attract atheists and evolutionists as well as creationists and is (sadly) a real money maker. I won’t take my son there and wouldn’t even if I lived in North America, but the Ark Park will probably financially earn the breaks it has been given.

  20. Gabriel Hanna

    Belief in biblical inerrancy and the divinity of Jesus means Christian.

    Granted, but “Christianity” is not a church that can be established. Who is in the organization of “Christianity”? What physical churches belong to “Christianity”? What people are authorized to make statements of behalf of “Christianity”?

    This is why I get so annoyed. The Establishment Clause is not a blanket ban on religion in government, and never was. A lot of secularizers have decided that it somehow is, despite 230 years of history that says otherwise.

    just the promotion of Christianity vs, for example, Islam or Judaism,

    Which is exactly why Noah’s Ark doesn’t count, as it is common to all three.

    t I don’t think the state should support it with the citizen’s treasury.

    I’d argue that tax incentives aren’t really the same, but that’s not so important. And I agree that Kentucky SHOULDN’T do it, but the fact is they have the power to. Maybe we should take that power away–but it’s for people in Kentucky to decide, since it’s their money they are spending and they who elected the governor.

  21. Gabriel, they clearly have a logical defense as to not being a specific religion (although I think it’s less of a defense than you do. I think Christianity is in fact a religion, and the various denominations are relatively meaningless subdivisions within the religion. All of the arguments in court over teaching creationism in schools do not differentiate whether or not it is Baptist creationism or Methodist creationism. Same with prayers in public meetings – it is enough that it is a prayer).

    Also, Ark Encounter will doubtless pay property taxes, employ individuals, buy electricity and water, and contribute to the local economy. They will employ a large number of wood workers, at least for a short term. Which is probably how it was pitched to Beshear, who most likely thought he had a win-win by appealing to the Dems on employment and the social conservatives on the religious aspects.

  22. Human Ape: “It’s interesting that some Democrats are as retarded and theocratic as Republicans.”

    But it shouldn’t be surprising. Politicians all over the spectrum are mostly religious and science-illiterate. I often wonder how many Democrats go along with evolution only for the votes, while privately denying it. Conversely, do we even know that Beshear believes any of that YEC (or OEC) nonsense? Could be just a misguided “fairness” thing, with him privetely considering the Ark story a “nice allegory”?

    Besides, if the majority was like most of us followers of the “debate” the theme park would be bad for the anti-evolution movement in that it would better help people understand how creationism fails. As if the fact that it comes in mutually contradictory “literal” versions isn’t devastating enough. But how many people even know about the mutually contradictory versions? Not many, and most who do know don’t care. Why are we preoccupied doing what the courts do much better (debating the constitutionality issues), when we could be educating the public about how “creationism” is DOA even before one ever gets to the religion issue?