Oklahoma Newspaper Wants Theocracy

We’ve written about this before — see Oklahoma Theocracy — Coming Soon? The subject is State Question 790 — Oklahoma Public Money for Religious Purposes. It will be on the 08 November ballot in Oklahoma. If approved, State Question 790 would repeal Section 5 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which currently prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.

Our earlier posts didn’t stir up much interest, but this is important so we’re going to discuss it again. First, however, we’ll repeat some background information. The state Constitutional provision which may be eradicated now says:

Article II: BILL OF RIGHTS, Section 5: No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

Thirty-eight states have such a provision in their Constitutions. It wisely keeps preachers from attempting to grab taxpayers’ money to support their ministries. The Founders of the US were mostly in agreement that the official, government-endorsed religions of their states were an impediment to liberty. That was the motivation behind Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Oklahoma may throw that away, opening the floodgates to religious conflicts in the legislature.

Okay, now we’re all on the same page. We’ve been watching the few articles about this that pop up from time to time. Some have opposed State Question 790, but most have been nothing but a brief description of it along with other issues on the ballot, without any serious discussion of the issues. Today, however, we found an editorial in The Oklahoman. That’s the state’s most widely circulated newspaper, located in Oklahoma City, the largest city in that state, and also the state capital. They actually recommend voting for State Question 790, and the newspaper has a comments section. The editorial is titled Oklahomans should vote yes on SQ 790. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Opponents of SQ 790 contend that Article II, Section 5 simply requires church-state separation. Not true.

In reality, Article II, Section 5 is an embarrassing relic of 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry. It fuels abusive lawsuits targeting programs that are perfectly legal under the U.S. Constitution. It has been employed to drive people of faith from the public sphere simply because they are people of faith.

Aha — that provision in the state Constitution is “an embarrassing relic” that drives people of faith from the public sphere! Then they describe what we assume is a carefully selected group of cases dealing with that provision of the Constitution, in Oklahoma and in some other states that have the same thing. The selected cases all involved taxpayer funding of church programs to help the poor and other people in need. The impression given is that tax money flowing to churches is vital, and without it there would be diseased and starving people dying in the streets. Here are some examples:

Anti-religious zealots once used Article II, Section 5 to try to stop state payments to an Oklahoma orphanage simply because it was run by Baptists. … The Council for Secular Humanism sued to prevent church-affiliated halfway houses in Florida from providing state-funded drug rehab assistance. … Numerous churches and religious organizations provide health care to the poor in Oklahoma. Article II, Section 5 could be used to challenge their state funding.

That’s great journalism! The state has to pour taxpayer money into churches or … we’re all gonna die! The editorial asks:

Why would anyone want to preserve a constitutional provision that has the potential for such severe negative effect?

Uh, maybe to avoid the unsightly clamoring of preachers and their lobbyists demanding that legislators should pay for their churches, their salaries, and — of course — teaching creationism in state schools. The wise editorial writers don’t consider any of that. Instead, they tell us:

SQ 790 opponents claim it will facilitate taxpayer funding for proselytizing. Not true. That will remain illegal (and no one is proposing taxpayer funding for missionaries anyway). By repealing Article II, Section 5, SQ 790 simply ensures people of faith in Oklahoma are allowed to continue providing much-needed services.

Yeah, sure. They end with this:

Article II, Section 5 provides no positive benefit, but could generate many negative outcomes. Its repeal should be welcomed by all Oklahomans of good will. SQ 790 accomplishes that goal. The Oklahoman endorses a yes vote on SQ 790.

So there you are. The Oklahoman favors theocracy. Maybe they’ll get what they wish for.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Humanity’s Next Adventure — Trek Three

There’s no blogable news out there about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, so your Curmudgeon will take advantage of the lull to indulge in a bit of — well, call it what you will. Here it comes:

When we think of humanity’s eventual journey to the stars, we often think in terms of Star Trek, but it’s unlikely to be anything like that. It’s important to understand that we’ve had treks before. Trek One was the so-called Out of Africa migration of humans from the place where we evolved. Estimates vary, but it began at least 70,000 years ago, and it lasted for thousands of years, eventually resulting in human occupation of all the habitable places on Earth.

It took a long time because our ancestors had virtually no technology. They probably had fire, stone tools, possibly also spears and such, but that was all. They had no wheeled carts. All their movements were on foot, and they had to carry their limited possessions. After traveling into unknown territory, they probably established a settlement where they stayed, gradually increasing in number. Then some would move on even further into unknown territory and start a new settlement. Communication was limited to face-to-face conversation, so distant groups lost contact with each other. They sometimes encountered Neanderthals and other evolutionary cousins, but they were often the first to go where they went.

Eventually the entire globe was inhabited by humans — well, the habitable parts. Lacking communications and written records, people in distant areas forgot their origins. Trek One, the first great human adventure, was never recorded — it doesn’t even appear in myth. All over the world, humans have conjured up a great variety of origin stories, but the true story — the best of all — was forgotten. Now that it’s been discovered, we realize that it was essential, because it protected us from extinction. By living everywhere they could, humans were immune from being wiped out by a local geological disaster.

Things remained like that for thousands of generations, which was not enough time for speciation to occur. Then one group — the Europeans — developed a vastly superior method of transportation. Starting with people like Columbus, what historians call the Age of Discovery began. We consider this to be Trek Two.

European explorers encountered and often conquered their distant relatives all over the world, taking home news of their accomplishments, along with the riches they plundered. It was a time of great adventure — thrilling for the discoverers, but not so good for those whom they discovered. The result is the world we know today, with humans in contact, trading and sometimes fighting with each other, all over the world.

Sooner or later — preferably sooner — we’ll begin Trek Three. We’ve already described it in Evolution and the Conquest of the Galaxy. The interesting thing about it (aside from the fun and adventure) is that it will be more like Trek One than Trek Two. There are a few reasons for this:

Trek Three, like the first great trek out of Africa, is essential to assure our survival. When humans are living on several different planets orbiting other stars, we can’t be exterminated by a planetary disaster like the dinosaurs were, or by the eventual death of the Sun.

It will also be at least somewhat like Trek One because of time. Even traveling at 50% of lightspeed, voyages will take years. Columbus and the other European explorers were lucky — their voyages took only months.

Another similarity to Trek One is that we’re unlikely to discover other civilizations, as did the European explorers (think about Cortés and the fall of the Aztec Empire). In that sense, Trek Three won’t be anything like Star Trek. There probably are aliens out there, and some will have a technological civilization, but those aren’t likely to be in our immediate galactic neighborhood — otherwise we’d already know about them, and they might be running the show here. We’re likely to encounter them eventually. The later the better, because we’ll be better prepared to defend ourselves, if necessary. Perhaps we won’t be exploiters. In any event, history teaches us that in such things, it’s better to be the discover-or than the discover-ee.

Another similarity to Trek One will be communications. The Out of Africa adventurers quickly lost communications with their place of origin. So it will be with interstellar settlers. Even in the case of planetary systems that are only five light years apart, two-way communications require ten years. As the sphere of human-occupied space increases, communications between distant worlds will take longer and longer. Unlike our ancestors, our far-flung descendants probably won’t forget their origins; but distant worlds will be be centuries out of touch.

Although most of us want to be part of the next great adventure, it’s likely to be a long, hard slog, like Trek One was. But we’ve done it before, and like humanity’s original trek, it’ll be worth the effort.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Ken Ham & Ray Comfort in the Ark, Tonight

We are suffering from an adjective emergency. There’s no other way to describe our reaction to the latest post from Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed not only for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG), but also for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum, and for building an exact replica of Noah’s Ark, a creationist tourist attraction known as Ark Encounter.

We wrote about this a month ago — see Ray Comfort’s Movie & Ken Ham’s Ark — but now that the event is upon us, we realize how utterly inadequate our language is to describe what we’re thinking. Perhaps it’s best to let Hambo do the talking.

Here are some excerpts from his post, Join Us Tonight for the Live Premiere of The Atheist Delusion Film, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

[J]oin us tonight for a special live premiere of the new film from Living Waters, The Atheist Delusion. This film will show you how to reach out to atheists with the evidence for both the Creator and the gospel. I will be hosting this special premiere along with my good friend Ray Comfort from Living Waters ministries. You won’t want to miss it!

Ray Comfort is best known for his starring role in Ray Comfort’s “Banana video”. But wait — it gets even better:

This exclusive event is taking place inside the life-size Noah’s Ark at Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky at 7:00 p.m. EST tonight as a private event.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Comfort and Hambo, together, inside the ark! It’s impossible to imagine anything more … Aaaargh!! Words fail us. Your Curmudgeon is truly experiencing a profound vocabulary vacancy. Let’s get back to Hambo. He says:

But we will be live broadcasting our introduction to the film, the film itself, and a Q&A session on DayStar television so people around the world can join us for this special premiere.

Hambo doesn’t provide any links for that. Then he tells us:

The Atheist Delusion features interviews with atheists from across the country. Watch Ray engage the skeptics as only he can do, starting with the truth — obvious from creation — that there is a Creator, and transitioning from that knowledge to discuss the sinfulness of every person and the good news of the gospel.

Verily, the creation is proof of the creator. Hambo continues:

This new film is going to grab people’s attention and embolden many to stand against this small secularist group that is aggressively opposing the Christian influence in this country.

Yeah — look out, secularists! Hambo finishes with this:

Don’t miss the special live premiere tonight at 7:00 p.m. on DayStar TV. Later in the evening you can watch the film on YouTube.

Hambo does provide a link for that, so if you care, click over there to find it. We’re not going to make it easy for you.

Update: Year’s Most Predictable Creationist Headline.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #726: Mark Looy

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, Texas. The letter is titled Creation Museum. It’s the first of a few letters at that link. The newspaper has a comments section, but they probably won’t all apply to the letter that interests us. Anyway, there aren’t any comments yet.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a special situation. The letter is from Mark Looy, who signs as “chief communications officer, Answers in Genesis.”

As you know, Answers in Genesis (AIG) is the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed not only for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum, but also for building an exact replica of Noah’s Ark. We’ll give you a few excerpts from Looy’s letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:

It’s amazing how many wrong claims were made about our organization in such a short letter to the editor (Oct. 7).

This is the earlier letter Looy is talking about: Creationism. It’s brief enough that we’ll quote it all right here:

Those who believe that creationism is a science will want to visit Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Creationist Ken Ham, who believes he is scientist, has built (with taxpayer dollars) a replica of Noah’s Ark. Ham figures that dinosaurs and humans lived peacefully together with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He proves this by his display of the first family with a Brontosaurus. The kids will be thrilled to know that Triceratops wore riding saddles!

Looy is outraged! He says:

First, our life-size Noah’s Ark south of Cincinnati was built with zero taxpayer dollars.

Well … technically, the taxpayers didn’t literally write a check to build Hambo’s ark. But Answers in Genesis got a good deal from the county when they purchased the land on which the ark is built (reportedly 99 acres for $1), and a nearby city cooperated by issuing tax-free bonds to finance the ark’s construction. The bond sale certainly wasn’t hurt by the promise of state sales tax rebates which would be paid to the operator of the ark. There were other goodies too — see Newsweek Story on Hambo’s Ark and also A Summary of Ark Park Financial Gimmicks. Anyway, after that Looy tells us:

Second, Ken Ham, the Ark Encounter’s founder, does not claim to be a scientist, although he has hired several scientists for our staff who hold Ph.D.’s from places like Harvard, Brown, Ohio State, Indiana and Vanderbilt. At the same time, Ham has more scientific training than someone like Bill Nye, the so-called “Science Guy.”

Your Curmudgeon could say a great deal about that paragraph — but we won’t. We don’t need to. Looy continues:

No museum exhibit exists in our Creation Museum of a Triceratops with a saddle on it; that’s an old Internet myth.

Myth? Looy is opposed to myths? Hambo himself wrote that “we do have one sculptured dinosaur with a saddle … used for a fun activity for kids to climb on and have their photographs taken” — see Dinosaurs and Saddles. He’s even got pictures! So a saddled dinosaur does exist at Hambo’s museum, but it isn’t an exhibit — it’s an attraction. Maybe Looy will escape the Lake of Fire for saying that no such “museum exhibit exists.”

Okay, back to the letter. It ends with this:

I doubt the letter writer, who wants to come across to readers as knowledgeable about us, has ever visited our museum or Ark.

So there you are. Hey — if you want to read a great article by someone who really did visit Hambo’s ark, we recommend Kentucky Gets an Ark-Shaped Second Creation “Museum” by Dan Phelps, President, Kentucky Paleontological Society. It appears at the website of our friends at the National Center for Science Education.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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