Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear at least has one thing right: taxpayers should never be required to fund discrimination.
Earlier this month, Beshear outraged scientists, civil liberties activists and, indeed, lots of people who care about reasonable and responsible government, with his plan to provide tax incentives for the developers of a creationism-themed park featuring a full-size rendering of Noah’s ark.
Not only was the state’s endorsement of a religious viewpoint troublesome from a constitutional perspective, it also irked scientists that the governor was planning to promote bad science. Paleontologists are pretty darn sure that Earth is more than 6,000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs did not exist at the same time, and state support for a fundamentalist Christian facility that says otherwise is a bad idea.
Beshear has since taken a small step in the right direction -- though it’s still quite far from where he needs to be. The governor has assured us that the park’s fundamentalist Christian backers will not be able to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.
“We’re going to require that anybody that we deal with is going to obey all of the laws on hiring and not discriminate on hiring,” Beshear told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “As a matter of fact, part of the language that will be in agreements … is that they are going to abide by the law in terms of hiring and that they agree not to discriminate, so we will certainly have the ability to deal with it if we find that it happens.”
That’s good to know, especially considering Beshear promised that his support of the park had nothing to do with his religious beliefs, but rather his determination to create more jobs. At least we know he wants to create jobs for everyone, not just for those who believe a certain religious view.
Still, Beshear’s recent opposition to hiring discrimination hardly cures the constitutional problem. This is a still religious project and the state is still funding it.
The Kentucky constitution makes it abundantly clear that there should be no government aid to religion. Section 5 says in part:
“No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious sect, society or denomination; nor to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion….”
Hmmmm. It sounds like the state government is forbidden to support the “ark park,” and it may not force taxpayers to subsidize it.
While we appreciate Beshear’s efforts to minimize some of the constitutional damage, it’s simply not enough.
It also doesn’t make much sense that Beshear thinks this is the best way to go about creating jobs. He should at least realize the mockery he is subjecting Kentucky to. Both the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal have written editorials blasting the governor for his decision to support a project that opposes sound science and plays up a fundamentalist viewpoint.
“Hostility to science, knowledge and education does little to attract the kind of employers that will provide good-paying jobs with a future,” the Herald-Leader observed.
Neither newspaper wants their state to be a laughing stock. And both make it clear that religion should pay its own way, not depend on the government.
I’m no biblical scholar, but as far as I know, Noah built the first ark without government assistance. These modern-day entrepreneurs should do so as well.