Ken Ham’s Ark in Matt Bevin’s Kentucky

On rare occasions, there are news items that seem to tie several different issues together. Such is the case today with an article in the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky (not far from ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum). We were alerted to it by one of our clandestine operatives — code named “Bluegrass.” Their headline is Ark Park, Kim Davis eager for Bevin support. The newspaper has an active comments section.

Ark Park, as you know, is the biblical tourist attraction currently under construction in Northern Kentucky by a subsidiary of Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo). AIG is currently embroiled in litigation with the state of Kentucky over its “right” to receive potentially millions of dollars worth of government sales tax rebates. We first discussed the case here: AIG’s Complaint Against Kentucky. The last time we posted about it was Ken Ham’s Litigation: 02 July 2015 Update.

We recently wrote about Republican Matt Bevin just a few days before Kentucky’s election for Governor — see Kentucky Creationism — The Governor’s Race. We mentioned that he strongly agrees that Kentucky should proceed with the tax incentive proposal for the Noah’s Ark theme park. Since we posted that, Bevin won the election.

The third name in the newspaper’s headline was Kim Davis. She’s the county clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Although that topic isn’t of particular interest here, we wrote about her a couple of months ago in Who Are the GOP Theocrats?

To our great delight, all three of those — Hambo’s Ark Park, Kentucky’s newly elected governor Matt Bevin, and the religiously motivated Kim Davis, are in one newspaper article. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

In debt to the conservative Christian voters who helped elect him, Republican Matt Bevin will step into the governor’s office next month with leverage over two legal battles that involve religion. And conservatives are eager to collect.

What are those two legal battles? We’re told:

Throughout his campaign, Bevin was unequivocal in backing accommodations for religious county clerks – like Kim Davis – who object to issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

He also has signaled support for extending $18 million in state tax rebates to the Noah’s ark theme park in Northern Kentucky, which plans to limit hiring to Christians when it opens next year.

This is exciting! Let’s read on:

Both matters have sparked legal cases that are still winding through the courts, and both offer Bevin, who emphasized his faith during the election, an immediate opportunity to affirm a key voter constituency and draw contrasts with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

What can Bevin do about those cases? He’s not a judge in either of them, and he has no legitimate way to influence the judges. Oh, wait a minute — the lawyers who represent the state in each case may be under his control, at least to some extent. We continue:

Ed Hensley, co-organizer of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Kentucky chapter, said he has worries. “He’s going to permit more promotion of religion in particular, and Christianity specifically in government,” Hensley said. “The extreme to which he does it is not known by me or anybody. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

We’ll all be watching. Here’s more:

On Friday, Bevin told the media that soon after he becomes governor, he will issue an executive order to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses to protect them from being jailed from their religious beliefs. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a legal group representing Davis, said Friday that Davis was pleased to learn of Bevin’s comment. “This is exactly what Kim Davis has requested from the very beginning,” he said.

That executive order — assuming it’s legally permissible — seems relatively trivial. We recall reading that Davis said she’s let her employees issue what she considers blasphemous marriage licenses, but she didn’t want her name on them. The article says:

Davis, the Rowan County clerk, has already altered the forms in her office to remove all mention of her name or official authority. A federal judge is asking Beshear to weigh in on whether the doctored licenses are valid.

[…]

Supporters of Davis pleaded for [outgoing Governor Steve] Beshear to issue an executive order over the summer. Beshear argued that he has no legal authority in the matter because marriage certificates are governed under state statue.

Hey, this is interesting:

Beshear’s son, Andy Beshear, won election for attorney general on Tuesday. But a spokeswoman for the younger Beshear did not respond when asked if he would challenge Bevin over an executive order on licenses.

The former Governor’s son is the new attorney general. Maybe Bevin won’t have much control over how the two cases are handled. Moving along:

Meanwhile, construction on the ark theme park remains underway in Grant County, and the Christian ministry behind it – Answers in Genesis – argues in a lawsuit that state officials are violating the right of religious expression by denying state tax incentives.

We know about that. Another excerpt:

[Bevin’s] administration could presumably stop defending the case and grant the incentives once in office. Right now, attorneys for the [outgoing] Beshear administration are arguing in court that state tax dollars cannot be spent to advance the work of an “indisputably religious organization.”

Maybe Bevin could stop defending the case — but maybe not. It depends on whether Beshear’s son will cooperate with Bevin. On with the article:

Mike Zovath, chief action officer and co-founder of Answers in Genesis, said Thursday that he hasn’t spoken with Bevin about the case and “I have no idea what his thinking is.”

Does anyone believe that AIG doesn’t know what Bevin is likely to do? You should, because the holy men who run AIG wouldn’t lie to us. Everyone involved seems to be speculating:

[Gregory M. Lipper, senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State] said “I hope before he takes action he talks it over with members of his administration and attorneys.” Lipper said any change in position in the case by the state would be awkward because the state has argued “affirmatively and on paper” that extending incentives to the project would violate both the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions.

One last excerpt:

If Bevin reverses course and allows the rebates, [Ed Hensley, co-organizer of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Kentucky chapter] said he expects groups to still contest the move in court. “No matter what happens, it’s going to go to at least to the federal appeals court,” he said.

Not necessarily. If Hambo wins his tax incentives in the trial court, will the state appeal or not? That depends on whether Bevin and Beshear’s son can agree on what to do. Anyway, things are going to get interesting in Kentucky. Stay tuned to this blog!

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

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5 responses to “Ken Ham’s Ark in Matt Bevin’s Kentucky

  1. Does anyone suppose the “religious freedom” clowns of Kentucky would be so loudly insisting on government support of religion if Kim Davis were a Muslim and Kenny boy’s park featured a celebration of Muhammad’s horse leaping into heaven?

  2. Article states:

    On Friday, Bevin told the media that soon after he becomes governor, he will issue an executive order to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses to protect them from being jailed from their religious beliefs

    What!? Are there armed bands of fundamentalist Mutaween roaming the Appalachians, demanding to see people’s marriage licences and noting down the names of authorising clerks in order to carry out reprisals?

    Or have guerilla groups of Dawkinite atheist ninjas overrun the Bluegrass State, rounding up Christians for lion-fodder?

    I had no idea things were so bad! Governor-elect Bevin sure does have his work cut out for himself!

  3. What better way to waste KY taxpayer money than on Ham’s ark project. Maybe Bevin will even drop Medicaid/Medicare and KYNET (sic) healthcare coverage for the 200 hundred thousand or so Kentuckians on their ACA healthcare to pay for Ham’s ark support.

  4. I ask as an ignorant foreigner:

    If the incoming governor or attorney-general instructs the State’s attorneys not to contest Ken Ham’s lawsuit, would the Court then have no choice but to find for the plaintiff, thus requiring the State of Kentucky to reinstate the contested tax rebates?

    If that were to be the case, would some other taxpayer of the State of Kentucky then have standing to bring suit themselves, on the plea that giving the tax rebates was unconstitutional and in violation of their own rights by in effect increasing their tax burden by giving special treatment to an avowedly religious foundation?

    If that were to happen, and the plea be based on the words of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, would the suit be brought in Federal, rather than State court?

    For if all that fell into place, we might be celebrating another Kitzmiller.

  5. If the state decides not to contest Hambo’s suit, Dave Luckett asks: “would some other taxpayer of the State of Kentucky then have standing to bring suit themselves, on the plea that giving the tax rebates was unconstitutional …”

    Excellent question. Taxpayer suits are tricky. Unless authorized by statute, courts usually don’t allow them, because the harm to the litigant is too small. There were four parties that tried to intervene in Hambo’s suit on the same side as the state — see Ken Ham’s Litigation: Americans United Joins In. I’m informed that the court recently dismissed them from the case.