One of our clandestine operatives works full time following the suit filed against Kentucky by Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo). We first discussed the case here: AIG’s Complaint Against Kentucky. The last time we posted about it was Ken Ham’s Litigation: Kentucky Moves To Dismiss.
We were informed of two news articles about a recent court hearing. The first is in the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky (not far from ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum). Their headline is: Ark park says it’s entitled to state tax break, and the newspaper has a comments section. Their story says, with bold font added by us:
An attorney for Kentucky argued Wednesday that Answers in Genesis is free to build a Noah’s ark theme park in Northern Kentucky but that state tax dollars cannot be constitutionally spent to advance the work of the “indisputably religious organization.” But a lawyer for Answers in Genesis said it is an act of religious discrimination for the state to say that its tax incentive program to lure tourist developments is open to any applicants “except evangelicals.”
Right, that’s what the case is all about. Then we’re told:
The lawyers clashed in U.S. District Court in the first court hearing of a lawsuit brought in January by Answers in Genesis against Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart charging that the officials violated its right of religious expression by denying the project state tax incentives. Beshear and Stewart have asked the case to be dismissed. Answers in Genesis wants an immediate ruling allowing it to participate in the incentive program.
Ah, it was the first hearing. We knew a lot of pleadings have been filed, but it’s good to learn that we haven’t missed any court activity. Let’s continue:
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove challenged each side with questions during the two-hour hearing but gave no indication of when he will rule.
Suspense is good! Here’s more:
Van Tatenhove said at the outset that Answers in Genesis seems to be a “decidedly Christian” organization working to draw more followers to its particular beliefs. Yet the judge also said the state law creating the incentive program seems neutral toward what type of tourist attraction can qualify so long as it generates an economic benefit for the state. … He asked if the state didn’t dig beyond the law’s requirements to ask if the project involves “too much Jesus.”
Huh? That question doesn’t sound neutral. Here’s the state’s response:
But Virginia Snell, a Louisville attorney representing the state officials, said that, regardless of the wording of the state law, the state is bound to respect the mandates in the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions to separate church and state. Snell said it became clear from Answers in Genesis’ website postings and other actions since its first application that the project had become more religious in nature and that the organization also intended to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring for the project.
Right. That’s the issue. Hambo’s lawyer was ready for that:
Mike Johnson, a Louisiana attorney and member of the Louisiana state legislature who represents Answers in Genesis, said the ark will be “an entertainment facility” and not a place of worship. “The state went too far,” Johnson said. “… It’s not the state’s place to meddle in what’s too religious.”
Let’s turn to the second news story. It’s in the Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, which is the second-largest city in the state. There we read Noah’s ark developer seeking lost Kentucky tax incentive. They have a comments section too.
You already know most of the news, so we’ll only give you a few excerpts from their story, with bold font added by us:
Kentucky tourism officials have said the massive wooden ark would be an evangelism tool and shouldn’t receive tax dollars. “They want all comers to believe what they believe — which is fine — but we don’t have to fund it,” said Virginia Snell, a Louisville lawyer representing the state in the case.
Way to go, Virginia! Here’s more on the Judge’s remarks:
Van Tatenhove noted during a hearing Wednesday that the state’s tourism incentive is “content neutral,” meaning it doesn’t matter if an applicant for the sales tax rebate has a religious purpose. “There is a public purpose here, and it’s tourism,” said Van Tatenhove, whose ruling in the case is expected at a later date.
We can’t tell from that if the judge is confused, biased, or just trying to be fair to both sides. Anyway, there’s nothing else new in the story, so this is where we’ll leave it. Now we have to wait for the judge’s ruling on the state’s motion to dismiss Hambo’s complaint.
As we’ve said before, motions to dismiss are routine, and in all likelihood this one will be denied and the litigation will continue. Stay tuned to this blog!
Update: See Ken Ham’s Ark Wins First Round in Court.
Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.