Ken Ham’s Litigation: Two Reactions

The suit filed against Kentucky by Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — is discussed here: AIG’s Complaint Against Kentucky, so no further introduction is needed.

We found two reactions that may be of interest — although the only reaction that ultimately matters will be that of the judge. The first is in the Advocate-Messenger of Danville, Kentucky, where we read Thumbs Up Thumbs Down. It seems to be an editorial that discusses several issues. The last few paragraphs are about Hambo’s litigation. We’ll excerpt those, with bold font added by us:

A group planning to build a Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky was recently, and correctly, denied $18 million in tax incentives to help finance the project. Answers in Genesis is threatening to sue the state, citing discrimination and a violation of its First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

AiG is right to invoke the First Amendment on this topic, but wrong in the belief its cause is advanced by doing so. The First Amendment addresses five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. It not only guarantees freedom of religion but freedom from religion, and it is clear in this case the taxpayers would be asked to support proselytizing disguised as economic development.

On the discrimination charge, AiG should be looking itself in the mirror. The group admits its “Ark Encounter” would hire only Christians.

It’s always interesting to see what the press in Kentucky thinks of ol’ Hambo’s efforts, and it seems to be all negative. We can’t recall any press coverage that supports Hambo. We’ve previously written about two items that oppose him, which appeared last month before the litigation began — see Kentucky TV Station Turns Against Hambo’s Ark, and then Kentucky Newspaper Turns Against Hambo’s Ark.

But there is some positive opinion that has shown up in the press. Alas for ol’ Hambo, it’s all written by AIG personnel. Here’s an article from a couple of days ago that was written by Mark Looy, AIG’s co-founder and vice president. It’s in the Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, which is the second-largest city in the state. It’s the same newspaper that had run a column opposed to AIG’s requested tax rebates. Looy’s article is titled Noah’s ark park seeking only equal treatment. There are more than 30 comments at the end.

Most of what Looy says is predictable, so we’ll only excerpt a few parts that seem worthy of our Curmudgeonly commentary. He writes:

[T]he legal issue is actually quite simple: Can the state treat a religious organization differently than it does other groups that apply to participate in the Kentucky tourism incentive program?

Yes, the state can do that. In fact, the state must do that. For example, a gigantic church may be a big tourist attraction, but the state can’t give them money. It’s the same thing with Hambo’s Ark Encounter. This isn’t very difficult to understand. Let’s read on:

We expect to obtain a judgment that affirms these officials were wrong to demand that AiG waive its statutory rights to exercise a religious preference in hiring and its constitutional rights to share its religious message at the Ark theme park.

[*Sigh*] AIG can be as religious as it wants, and it can discriminate all day long. It does those things right now, and no one is trying to stop them. But as a religious organization, it can’t get money from the state. Neither can their Ark Encounter project if it’s run like a religious organization — which they intend to do, as their complaint makes clear. We continue:

The state, as well as strident secular groups, can point to no specific law or statute that would deny a religious organization like AiG the right to hire staff members who agree with its mission.

That’s true of AIG. But unlike Ark Encounter, AIG isn’t asking for millions from the state. Here’s more:

[It’s a] myth is that the Ark Encounter should not receive the future sales tax rebate because it is allegedly a for-profit business. It is not. AiG’s non-profit subsidiary, Crosswater Canyon, owns the Ark and it has been approved by the IRS as a non-profit.

Ark Encounter is a for-profit business. Their own complaint says so. Yes, it’s run by religious non-profit organizations, but that isn’t important. The key to this case is that they want to do two constitutionally inconsistent things at the same time: (1) run Ark Encounter like a religious organization; and (2) receive money from the state. Moving along:

The state is demanding that in order for the Ark to benefit from the tourism incentive (otherwise available to other qualifying parties), we will have to surrender the hiring rights we already possess under the law and will not be allowed to share our Christian viewpoint at our park. This form of censorship imposes a huge burden on the Ark Encounter’s freedom of religion. It smacks of overt religious discrimination.

If Looy chooses to consider the separation of church and state to be “religious discrimination,” he’s free to have that opinion. But he shouldn’t expect a Federal judge to agree with him. Here’s one last excerpt:

Churches and religious organizations will be carefully watching this case, for they will wonder if they may also be threatened by some government entity concerning their hiring and expressions of faith.

This is tiresome. No one is threatening AIG’s right to hire whomever it wishes. They’ve always been free to hire only creationists. But — and we must repeat ourselves — they can’t expect to behave like that and receive millions from the state.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Ken Ham’s Litigation: Two Reactions

  1. Delicious as it is to read rational Kentuckians taking Ole Hambo to task, I’m afraid I cannot muster more than 2 cheers over all this at the moment.

    The reason for my restraint? I fear that Hambo is actually inflating this issue as a ready excuse to scupper his insane money-losing Ark scam, citing Satanic-inspired ‘discrimination’ by wicked secularists. Of course, he won’t be refunding the money already donated, nor will he have to give an accounting for it.

    I really do think it could all be a scam, along the lines of Mel Brook’s The Producers

  2. If Mark Looy is silly enough to write misleading and self incriminating posts this early in the process, what can we expect from Ol’Hambo?
    Will he ultimately feel the need to threaten anyone in Kentucky who opposes his theocratic onslaught with excommunication? Honestly, what else does he have?

  3. “Arc scheme”? Is Hambo promoting trigonometry?

    …O Great Hand of Chastisement and Correction, surely Thou, from Whom no secrets are hid, dost knoweth I intended in the above post to write “Ark scheme.”

    …And, whilest Thou are at it, maybe go ahead and change it to “Ark scam” instead?

    I humbly thank Thee for Thy near-infinite mercy!

    [*Voice from above*] As you wish, my son. But as for your numerous requests that I change Olivia’s opinion of you, even I can’t help.

  4. Megalonyx speculates: “I fear that Hambo is actually inflating this issue as a ready excuse to scupper his insane money-losing Ark scam, citing Satanic-inspired ‘discrimination’ by wicked secularists.”

    He keeps saying that he has the funds to build the Ark. But he needs the state’s money for the other phases of the project. So he’s probably committed to finishing the Ark. If it doesn’t live up to his expectations, and he defaults on the bonds, he can blame that on the state.

  5. While I suspect Hambo will lose in court he’s still going to win. Someone else is paying the legal bills, win Hambo. The odds aren’t zero that he will lose, win Hambo. Free buzz about the ark park with the façade of oppression , win Hambo.

  6. I just want to know when states will begin taxing religious groups and treating them like every one else….I already know the answer to this question.
    By the way, I’m a new Curmudgeonly reader here and I’m certainly hooked.

  7. AiG plays this game well. Just like their approach to well-established science–they understand the key is not what is factual, but what is repeated ad nauseum. It doesn’t matter that their own lawsuit acknowledges the Ark Encounter is for-profit, it just matters what the AiG mouthpiece blasts to the drooling public.

    If you read the comments on Ken Ham’s facebook page in his video referencing hiring discrimination, there are an alarming number of people who say that AiG has always maintained they would discriminate in hiring…even though the 48 page long lawsuit that AiG posted states explicitly that they did agree not to discriminate.

  8. My comment above should say *always maintained they would discriminate in hiring*

    my apologies

    [*Voice from above*] No problem. These things happen.

  9. Charles Deetz ;)

    Because they were ‘forced’ to create a ‘for profit’ company to comply with certain rules of business and taxes and incentives, one has to realize that the rules are set up that way for a reason. It isn’t just, ‘we’ll call our ministry for-profit and run it like a non-profit’. When you find yourself violating the rules before you even start playing the game, it is a pretty good indication that you are playing the wrong game. Stupid idiots, I do hope the judge laughs at you.

  10. Ham’s Ark park is an instrument of sectarian proselytization, and as such shouldn’t receive a penny from the state.

    Is this “discrimination”? Only if you believe, as many right-wing fundamentalists do, that it’s a myth that the Framers meant to separate church and state. Unfortunately for them, it’s pretty well documented that they did. It’s true that it took decades to disestablish all the state churches in the U.S. (until 1890 for the Mormon Church in Utah), and even longer to get state-mandated prayers out f the public schools, but all that means is that the Constitution was easier to write than to implement.

  11. Daniel Webb said:
    AiG plays this game well. Just like their approach to well-established science–they understand the key is not what is factual, but what is repeated ad nauseum. It doesn’t matter that their own lawsuit acknowledges the Ark Encounter is for-profit, it just matters what the AiG mouthpiece blasts to the drooling public.

    Exactly, and that’s the M.O. of all creationist outfits, AIG, the Dishonesty Institute, the CRI, ad nauseum. That’s why Phillip Johnson wrote his book/s putting Darwin on trial. He didn’t need evidence, he only made a “legal case” that sounded plausible. And all of them are preaching to their own choirs, providing them with this rot.

  12. Perhaps Ham has now been told by architects and engineers that the ark he’s planning to build using only wood is not possible, and he’s devising an exit strategy that puts the blame on “the atheist secularists”.

    Anyway, we drove by Ham’s Ark Ecounter site Monday. We didn’t get off the interstate (I-75), but it was evident you wouldn’t be able to easily see his completed ark from the highway. There was one notch between hills where it might be visible for a second or two if you knew right where to look, but it would be some distance away even then.

    The Ark Encounter site is about 45 minutes south of Cincinnati, with not much else around it. There is a small outlet mall at Dry Ridge a few miles north, but many of the shops appear to be vacant. Tough times in northern Kentucky.

    All in all, it’s hard to imagine what Ham was thinking when he chose this site. If God came to him and said, “Build it here!”, it’s probably because God didn’t want to be embarrassed.