Ken Ham’s Litigation: 02 July 2015 Update

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.

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16 responses to “Ken Ham’s Litigation: 02 July 2015 Update

  1. docbill1351

    It’s amazing how quickly the shell company, Ark Encounter, transitioned into a full-blown evangelical ministry. It’s almost as if it was like that all along!

  2. Forget the religion.
    The ARK is looking for tax incentives as a tourist trap.
    They project 2.4million shills coming every year.
    So based on this the tax incentive should be OK.
    Now…can the state TAX this ARK thing like any other business?
    No? then they are out of luck ….piss off!!!
    Yes? then at 2.4millionx$20=$50million net-$20million expenses-gives $30million profits x 5%=$1.5million to the state.
    So you can have the incentives if you PAY $1.5M every year for 30yrs REGARDLESS of the actual income!!! NO?!?! Then you are lying (as usual) about the numbers so NO INCENTIVES!!!!

  3. docbill1351

    Of course they’re lying about the numbers. Look at the Ark Encounter for what it is: a building that looks like a mythical boat and possibly a petting zoo with a few donkeys and miserable looking camels – if that.

    Word on the street is that the concession stand will sell “Sodom and Gomorrah foot-longs,” although the buns will cost you extra.

  4. I’d say that there are some people in the state government who have learned a lesson about government entanglement with religion.

  5. [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.”

    This is why people hate lawyers: too often, they distort the facts in the case on behalf of their clients. In this instance AIG’s layer is pretending that evangelicals (read: crackpot fundamentalists; there are plenty of evangelical Christians who don’t go along with these people) are singled out, when they are not, since the constitutional proscription in question covers all faiths.

    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.”

    In other words, screw both the state and federal constitutions as long as money comes in. Why doesn’t he just say fundamentalists can do as they please as long as they pay the state a sufficiently large bribe?

  6. I’m so glad to hear that the judge says that the law has to be content-neutral. The backers of my plan for a ” Judge Van Tatenhove Is A Nazi Sympathizer” amusement park will be thrilled that we can access to all that tax money.

  7. docbill1351

    Everything would have been cozy-rosey if Hambo hadn’t gone crazy-wacko on the “faith requirement” for a simple computer nerd. We have argued here whether Hambo is in it for the money, is a delusional religious zealot or some combination. Since he gave up millions of dollars of EZ Money ™, I’m coming down more on the religious nut side of the equation. Seriously, a graphics designer had to sign the statement of faith?

  8. docbill1351 incredulously asks, “Seriously, a graphics designer had to sign the statement of faith?”

    Yep — everyone needs to drink the Kool-aid. I was one of the commenters here who was in the “Ham’s an Elmer Gantry in it for the money” camp, but now I’m seeing it your way too, docbill — giving up the EZ Money is definitely not Elmer Gantryish.

  9. Is the statement of faith requirement a sign of paranoia and not just a arbitrary filter? Would someone new to the organization even understand the full scope of the crazy train attached to the statement/agreement?

  10. Since the case will make a precedent, the attorney for the state could use a hypothetical example of a religion that excluded women as a matter of faith.

  11. Troy says: “Since the case will make a precedent …”

    Not really. It’s not as if the constitutional principle of religious neutrality were a new idea. It may not have been applied yet to the tourism incentive program, but no one who has ever been to law school (except maybe places like Liberty University) has any doubt that the Constitution applies.

  12. I’m going to disagree with those who think Ham is in it either for the money, or because he’s a man of deep convictions. I think it is neither of those things. I think he now has such a huge messiah complex that anyone who DARES to say “no” to him will become his next mission. It’s fitting that Pope RSG used the term “Kool aid” because that’s who Ham reminds me of: Jim Jones. While Ham is not on the level of Jones or David Koresh, I still get the sense that he is so enamored of himself and the fact that he knows The TRVTH(tm), that he cannot fathom how he could possibly be wrong about anything. Since he’s always “right”, anyone who disagrees with him must be wrong, which means that that person is evil and must be fought tooth and nail.

  13. @Cardinal Gary: Yes, Ham has a deep religious conviction all right — in himself. He considers himself to be as inerrant as he considers the Bible. His ark will be the perfect monument to his own aggrandizement — a huge, smelly barn full of [edited out].

  14. docbill1351

    @Gary You’re definitely on to something there. Old Hambo certainly has a few loose screws, but being right all the time is nice and snug and you’d probably break a bit trying to undo that one.

    Hambo is also an authoritarian, or maybe that comes with the psychosis, and that what he says has to go. And I wonder if that’s why Jason Lisle had to go – he got crossways with old Hambo. Think about it. Lisle had a nice cushy job getting paid to lie to children. (We all covet that job, right, amirite or amirite?) Yet Lisle moved downmarket to ICR located in a seedy little strip mall outside of Dallas. I’m sure ICR’s balance sheet pales into insignificant next to AIG’s.

    Who knows what goes on inside the Creation Museum – at night!

  15. SC you may be right… and as I’ve never been to law school I’ve got a good excuse.

  16. @docbill: U r rite. Can’t imagine Lisle leaving on his own — well, wait a minute. Yes I can. Maybe he couldn’t stomach Hambo’s authoritarianism any longer, and had to get out. I wouldn’t think Ham would be an easy guy to work for — or with, for that matter. Especially if he is as psychotic as he appears to be.