Tom Loftus reports in the Louisville Courier-Journal that Gov. Steve Beshear has asked a federal court to dismiss the Ark Park’s lawsuit on the grounds that “[p]roviding the public funding sought for religious purposes …would constitute an unlawful establishment of religion” and thereby violate both the state and federal constitutions. Governor Beshear and his co-plaintiff, state Treasurer Bob Stewart, told the Courier-Journal that “the state’s denial of public funds for the ark park [sic] ‘reflects no hostility toward Plaintiffs’ faith’ and does not prohibit Answers in Genesis and its affiliated organizations from following their religious beliefs.”
Recently in Ark Park Category
Lawyers say this encounter is about to make an appearance in court and it’s all over tax incentives. The lawyer for the Ark Encounter says it will sue the state in federal court to try to regain the rebates it believes the state should give it for building the biblical attraction.
The link is approximately a transcript of the Wave 3 television broadcast, but the broadcast itself is worth watching – the television reporters got a tour of the construction site, and it looks like they are actually building the model Ark. A nice slideshow, Constructing the Ark Park, is also linked to the Wave 3 Web page.
The lawyer for the Ark Park, Mike Johnson, made an interesting statement:
They had to move over a million cubic tons, I think it was, of dirt.
If that is true, then the ton must be a unit of length, or else they are building the model in a 9-dimensional space. Maybe that is how Noah snuck so many creatures onto the Ark: he dropped them off into some of the extra dimensions. Works as well as any explanation promulgated by AIG. I hope that Mr. Johnson is as good a lawyer as he is an engineer.
Ark Park attendance is estimated to be no more than 640,000 visitors in its best year, down from 1.24 million, according to a report by Tom Loftus in The (Kentucky) Courier-Journal. That is not as bad as it appears – or as good as it appears, depending how you look at it – considering that the project has been scaled back from $172.5 million with many additional attractions to $73 million without.
The Kentucky Secular Society obtained a redacted copy of a report by Hunden Strategic Partners, of Chicago, through the Kentucky Open Records Act and distributed a press release to a handful of reporters. According to the press release, Hunden examined two scenarios: a “mainstream approach” and a religiously based approach “that may represent a specific viewpoint more associated with the Creation Museum.” The religiously based approach would net an attendance of 325,000 in the first year, a maximum of 425,000 in the third year, and then a decline to 275,000 by the tenth year. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis had said in October that “the full-size Noah’s Ark, when it opens in 2016, is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year,” but this estimate was probably based on the earlier proposal. Hunden also estimates a “fiscal impact” of $4.9 million, kind of a paltry return on a total tax-incentive package of $18.25 million.
Hunden also points to a steady decline in previous attendance at the Creation “Museum,” including a projected steep decline in 2014, but the precise figures have been redacted. I cannot tell from the wording whether to credit the report or the Kentucky Secular Society, but the press release claims that the attendance dropped precipitously after the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye in February.
Ed Hensley of the Kentucky Secular Society notes in the KSS press release,
The Hunden Report adds more evidence that the Commonwealth of Kentucky made the correct decision in rejecting the Ark Encounter application for tax incentives. Ken Ham, Ark Encounter, and Answers in Genesis are currently threatening to sue the Commonwealth for the right to have tax-supported religious discrimination in employment. We should consider the contrasting claims of the Hunden report while evaluating their threats.
Update, 12/11/2014, 12:30-ish MST: A Lexington Herald-Leader editorial has a [f]ew questions for Answers in Genesis, not least,
Why does God need so much taxpayer help?
Really, has God been so lame spreading the good news that AIG must “counter the myths floating around about the Bible-upholding Ark Encounter,” on a digital video board in New York’s Times Square?
Does God need to be defended with the demagogic language AIG and its founder Ken Ham use in the holy war against “intolerant liberal friends,” “secularists,” “Bible-scoffers,” and, the most telling, “agitators outside the state?”
The editorial concludes,
Perhaps Answers in Genesis should give up thanking God that intolerant liberals “can’t sink this ship,” and ask the deity instead whether it can be built without more government handouts.
I noted in a comment to another article that, according to reporter Joe Sonka, writing in Insider Louisville, The Lost Ark: Kentucky will not grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter,
Kentucky’s Tourism Arts & Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart informed representatives of the proposed Ark Encounter tourist attraction today that their project will not be eligible for up to $18 million in tax incentives from the state, due to their refusal to pledge not to discriminate in hiring based on religion.
and further that
Stewart cited AiG CEO Ken Ham’s Nov. 19 fundraising letter that accused the Beshear administration of religious persecution and reaffirmed their desire to discriminate in hiring based on religion. He also cited other statements throughout the year from AiG officials claiming the purpose of the park is to evangelize and indoctrinate its visitors.
Mr. Stewart wished Ark Encounter well but noted,
“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry,” wrote Stewart. “However, state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the Separation of Church and State provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”
Mr. Sonka appends to his article two letters: The first is from Bob Stewart, the secretary of the state’s Tourism Cabinet, to James Parsons, an attorney for the Ark Park, and outlines the state’s reason for denying the tax incentives. The second is from Mr. Parsons to Mr. Stewart; it looks as though they may have crossed in the mail. Mr. Parsons observes that Ark Encounter is (now) wholly owned by Answers in Genesis and argues that it should therefore be treated as a religious nonprofit. He continues with a lot of material that only a lawyer could love and concludes,
For all these reasons, if you insist on the newly imposed condition in your Letter [sic], it will amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination[,] and my client will have no choice but to seek redress in federal court. [Boldface in original document.]
Viewpoint discrimination generally refers to limiting speech in a public or semi-public space; I would like to hear from a lawyer as to whether that concept can reasonably be extended to a case such as this or whether Mr. Parsons is just whistling past the graveyard.
Thanks again to my Indefatigable Informant for the tip.
Joe Sonka reported the other day in Insider Louisville that Ken Ham has now attacked his old friend, Steve Beshear, the governor of Kentucky. As Mr. Sonka puts it, Mr. Ham “penned a fundraising letter last week claiming the governor is launching a ‘massive attack’ on their religious freedom and persecuting his organization ‘because of our Christian message.’” Mr. Ham blames atheists and “secularists” for putting pressure on state government officials and avers that “our freedom of speech and freedom of religion … are now under attack.”
In the simplest possible terms,
- Nonprofit religious organizations, such as Mr. Ham’s own Answers in Genesis, may legally discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious belief.
- For-profit organizations, such as Mr. Ham’s own Ark Encounter, may not legally discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious belief.
- You may not try to get around (2) by hiring people to work at Ark Encounter and pretending that they are employees of Answers in Genesis.
- If you try to get around (2) in that manner, then Kentucky’s Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet will ask you to pledge in writing that Ark Encounter will not discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion before they will reinstate your tax incentives.
In other words, Ark Encounter’s tax incentives will be restored, if only they pledge in writing that they will not discriminate in employment. Ark Encounter has so far declined to give such assurance, which makes a body speculate that they just might be thinking of laundering all Ark Encounter employment through Answers in Genesis in order to circumvent the law.
Is it any wonder that the Freedom from Religion Foundation has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the nonprofit status of Answers in Genesis and its affiliate the Creation “Museum”?
According to reports by Linda B. Blackford in the Lexington Herald-Leader and Tom Loftus in the Louisville Courier-Journal, here and here, Kentucky authorities have noticed the apparently deceptive hiring practices of AIG and Ark Encounter, and sent a letter informing the proprietors of the Ark Park,
Therefore we are not prepared to move forward with consideration of the application for final approval [of a tax incentive] without the assurance of Ark Encounter LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring for the project and will revise its postings accordingly.
Update, October 9, 2014, noonish. According to a Reuters dispatch, AIG has said that it will fight for its “religious rights after state officials warned he could lose millions in potential tax credits if he hires only people who believe in the biblical flood.” In a not entirely veiled threat, Mike Zovath told Reuters, “We’re hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn’t go further than this,” and argued that the state had added a requirement by prohibiting religious discrimination. The state has responded by saying, “We expect all of the companies that get tax incentives to obey the law.”
Schrödinger’s cat is, famously, both dead and alive, simultaneously. There has been doubt as to whether macroscopic objects could be prepared in cat states, but Answers in Genesis has done it! As Ed Hensley of the Kentucky Secular Society observes below, AIG is both a nonprofit and a for-profit entity, simultaneously (a condition that we noted earlier on PT). Following up on material that Dan Phelps acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Hensley sent the following (lightly edited) press release to a number of interested journalists:
Acting on a tip, I checked out Careers at Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum and investigated CAD Technician Designer, Ark Encounter. After clicking “Apply for This Position,” I came upon a pop-up that informed me,
Answers in Genesis, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action employer. We provide equal employment opportunities to all qualified employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, citizenship status, veteran status, disability or any other legally protected status. We prohibit discrimination in decisions concerning recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, training, termination, promotions, or any other condition of employment or career development.
That is good, because Ark Encounter is a for-profit corporation, but farther into the job application, I encountered
In what you might call an unusual piece of reverse evolution, Lawrence O’Donnell last night made a monkey of Ken Ham, Biblical literalists, and the Tourism Authority. The “tape” is 8 min long and worth every moment.
Unfortunately, it will not be the last word on the Ark Park.
A follow-up on the Nye-Ham debate in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education: Andrew J. Petto said it wasn’t a real debate, which is sort of true, but the most interesting observations, to me, were those made by John W. Patterson. Prof. Patterson, an engineering professor, correctly gives Ken Ham credit for not obfuscating, for not pretending that creationism is based on anything but his interpretation of the Bible. He thinks that other creationists may fault Mr. Ham for his candor, but he argues that
there will be far less public confusion about the distinctions between legitimate evidence-based science and the faith-based biblical varieties so successfully propounded by creationist debaters. In contrast, Ham’s approach lays bare what’s really behind all creationism, from the young-Earth biblical literalism to the more inchoate ‘intelligent design’ models.
Kentucky geologist Daniel Phelps yesterday sent us a press release noting that AIG’s Allosaurus fossil will go on display this weekend; see the AP release by Dylan Lovan here. Mr. Lovan quotes Mr. Phelps to this effect:
Daniel Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, said in a release Thursday that the Creation Museum “has decided, without doing research, that the dinosaur fossil is evidence of Noah’s flood.”
What Mr. Lovan left out is far more interesting.
Grant County News said today, with some exaggeration, “Ark construction begins.” In fact, Ark Encounter had a “Hammer and Peg” ceremony last week; actual groundbreaking will begin later this month.
I watched the ceremony for 40 excruciating minutes in real time. You can see it here on YouTube. I thought it would have been a very nice ceremony, but for the fact that they were talking nonsense. Indeed, the video begins with a picture of Noah or one of his sidekicks driving wooden pegs into the Ark. Want to bet that the Ark Park will use plenty of steel in their Bronze Age structure?
Yeah, yeah, I know: Schizophrenia is a specific medical diagnosis, and it does not mean holding two views at the same time. But its etymology does imply something like split mind, and I cannot think of a better way to describe this:
The Creation “Museum” has put on display the Allosaurus fossil that we reported on here. And they are tickled pink. Their house geologist, Andrew Snelling, who used to do real geology (or his doppelg�nger did) said of their Allosaurus,
Since everyone is all het up about Noah, I thought I would resurrect (sorry) a narrative I wrote 15 years ago for my book on science and religion. The “Friedman” I cite is Richard Elliott Friedman, author of Who Wrote the Bible? I used the section primarily to explain why scholars are convinced that the Hebrew Bible is a composite of two different but related methodologies (the documentary hypothesis), but it also shows the utter incoherence of the Bible when read as a literal history. The excerpt may be found below the fold.
Well, AiG’s Ken Ham has seen the movie “Noah” starring Russell Crowe, and boy, is he steamed!
Friends, I just arrived home after seeing the Hollywood (Paramount) movie NOAH tonight. It is MUCH much worse than I thought it would be. Much worse.
The Director of the movie, Darren Aronofsky has been quoted in the media as saying NOAH is ‘the least biblical biblical film ever made’, I agree wholeheartedly with him.
I am disgusted. I am going to come right out and say it-it is disgusting and evil-paganism! Do you really want your family to see a pagan movie the has Noah as some psychopath who says if his daughter-in-law’s baby is a girl, he will kill it as soon as it’s born. And then when two girls are born, bloodstained Noah (the man the Bible calls righteous Noah-Genesis 7:1), brings a knife down to one of the baby’s heads to kill it and at the last minute doesn’t do it-and then a bit later says he failed because he didn’t kill the babies. How can we recommend this movie and then speak against abortion! Psychopathic Noah sees humans as a blight on the planet and wants to rid the world of people.
I feel dirty-as if I have to somehow wash the evil off me.
Don’t hold your breath, but Ken Ham, who is in Nashville for a religious broadcasters’ conference, plans an announcement about the Ark Park.
I have a few media interviews lined up over the next couple of days to discuss the debate [with Bill Nye] and also to share something about the Ark Encounter.
Dare we speculate?
Piers Morgan will interview the debaters on CNN at 9:45 EST, and MSNBC will interview Bill Nye during the 10:00 hour, EST. C-Span will rebroadcast the event Wednesday, February 19 at 8 p.m. EST, according to WCPO.
If you cannot wait till the end of the debate, you may leave comments below at any time. I suggest that we allow comments from (many of) our creationist trolls, as long as they are coherent. I will not allow comments that are merely insulting.
Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, will participate in an “extended interview” with Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis. The participants will discuss the question, “Is teaching creationism harmful to children, society?” at 11:00 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, Thursday, January 30, on WEKU of Richmond, Kentucky. It looks like you can get it streaming. I will refrain from noting that modern journalism thinks there are two sides to every question, even when there are not.
Does any reader know of any other, similar warm-ups or “extended interviews”?
Gwen Pearson, an entomologist formerly known as Bug Girl, has performed sort of a retrospective analysis of the Ark Park‘s facilities for caring for its animals. You might have thought that the Ham-merheaded proprietors of the Ark Park would have performed a prospective analysis but evidently you would have been mistaken. Cheer up! Here is Dr. Pearson’s advice to the Ham-itic designers:
A Slate article the other day compared the Ark Park to Coleridge’s Xanadu: “an extravagant vanity project born out of boundless narcissism and ambition.” An apt comparison, except of course that in the poem Kubla Khan actually builds his stately pleasure-dome – and he does not float junk bonds to do so.