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The open carry celebration at the New Bethel Church in 2009 drew a fair amount of media attention. Parishioners were encouraged to bring firearms to a church picnic and celebration, and news outlets from around the country reported on it.

Let’s see what kind of attention Georgia gets this year, as lawmakers consider a bill that would once again allow guns in church. It has enthusiastic support from Pastor James Brown Jr. (No, not that Pastor James Brown)

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The controversial Ark Encounter theme park has received preliminary approval to apply for $37 million in tax breaks.

 

 

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has thrown his support behind Ark Encounter, a Christian theme park that enforces the biblical interpretation of history, specifically the Noah’s Ark story. Ark Encounter will feature a replica of the Ark and the Tower of Babel, among other biblical attractions.

The park is planned for northern Kentucky. Beshear called it a “big deal,” and said the $150 million park is likely to create 900 jobs.

The park’s developers (Ark Encounters LLC and Answers in Genesis–the group behind the Creation Museum) are seeing tax incentives to build the park, saying it will ultimately bring money to the commonwealth. As Tony McVeigh reports, Beshear has promised the developers incentives, and says the government assistance does not violate any laws.

We have reviewed this from a legal standpoint and the application complies with our laws.  There is nothing even remotely unconstitutional about a for-profit organization coming in and investing a $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky and bring tourism to Kentucky.

From the C-J:

Louisville attorney David Tachau, who successfully sued over a state appropriation for a religiously affiliated pharmacy school, said he would have to further research the issue.

“It certainly sounds as if the mechanism for supporting a particular religious dogma would violate the establishment of religious prohibitions in the state and federal constitutions, but there may be slippery ways this could pass muster,” he said.

Edwin Kagin, a Northern Kentucky attorney who is also the national legal director for the group American Atheists, said it doesn’t appear to him to violate the law. If other projects with religious themes could qualify for the tax incentives, the law doesn’t discriminate.


A Mayfield, Kentucky resident can once again open a mosque in his town.

The Somali native’s proposal was first approved by the city, then later rejected due to an alleged parking issue. As the Courier-Journal reports, the permit has been granted, again.

Although Mayfield board members stressed that the issue was about land use, not religion, city officials did receive comments raising suspicions about Islam by email and at the Aug. 24 meeting when it voted to reject the permit.

In October, the zoning board voted to void its previous votes and scheduled the Tuesday meeting at the written request of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which took up Ahmed’s cause. The ACLU said the board’s rejection was “procedurally defective,” based on false assumptions and in violation of constitutional and statutory protections of the freedom of religion.

“We are pleased,” said attorney William Deatherage of Hopkinsville, who represented Ahmed in cooperation with the ACLU. “We think the board observed the constitutional rights of the applicant, and the applicant himself is very pleased because now he gets to make his very small prayer center available for the Muslim citizens in Graves County.”

Rodgers said the hearing included about four or five public comments that focused on issues such as parking rather than religion.

 

Accusations of idol worship have not only emerged in a race for the U.S. Senate, but they seem to have erupted into a defining issue in the contest.

Democrat Jack Conway‘s ad that references Republican Rand Paul‘s alleged college pranks is being spun in nearly every possible way. Democratic Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has called the spot “very dangerous.” Conway has had to defend the ad on national TV (1,2). But while criticisms are coming from both sides of the aisle, there are those who praise Conway for “going there” in the campaign.

I have a real problem with all the prissy condemnations coming from liberal commentators about Conway’s ad on Rand Paul’s youthful playing with contempt for Christianity. People are acting as if it is some kind of political sin to point out to ordinary Kentucky voters the kind of stuff about Paul’s extremist libertarian views that everyone in the punditry already knows. This does not amount to saying that Christian belief is a “requirement for public office” as one site huffs. It is a matter of letting regular voters who themselves care deeply about Christian belief know that Paul is basically playing them. No different really than letting folks who care about Social Security and Medicare know that Paul is playing them,

One reason that Dems do not seem to be able to play hardball — in a viciously hardball political world — is that Dems often lack conviction or the will to be eloquently honest (for example, on taxes). But an equal problem is that when someone does play hardball, the rest of the prissy liberal Mugwumps tut-tut them about it.

I say, go for it, Jack Conway. Does anyone doubt that Paul and his supporters would have used similar publicly documented material against Conway (or even less material)?

Paul isn’t free from criticism, either. A few pundits say his behavior at last weekend’s debate, and the fact that he may cancel the one remaining debate, shows weakness. Paul has accused Conway of “bearing false witness” and he has brought the Tea Party’s new “be a man” trope into yet another race. (Sarah Palin urged legislators to “man up” in Reno, Nevada this week, too.) Further, a few media-watching observers have pointed out Paul

Chris Cillizza compares the ad to one run by Elizabeth Dole in 2008 that questioned Dole’s opponent Kay Hagan‘s faith. That ad backfired, but Cillizza says the Aqua Buddha spot could be a deciding factor in the Paul/Conway race.

…it now seems clear that this ad could make or break the race — forcing voters to decide whether Paul’s college transgressions are fair game in the context of a political race or whether Conway went too far and, in so doing, made himself look like a desperate candidate looking for a Hail Mary political pass.

The other star of the ad, the woman who was allegedly tied up and told to worship the Aqua Buddha, has weighed in on the situation. She says the ad is over the top, but accurate, and it raises legitimate concerns.

Terry Jones, the mustachioed Florida pastor who threatened to burn the Qur’an on September 11th* is considering visiting Mayfield, Kentucky, where lawmakers recently blocked the construction of a Mosque and an ACLU challenge is mounting.

Our colleagues at Kentucky Public Radio report that he told a Flordia radio station he is considering visiting Kentucky after receiving a call from Mayfield and hearing reports of violence by Muslims. Jones’s reports are unconfirmed.

Should this post on Terry Jones exist? He was a relatively unknown pastor of a tiny congregation in Florida, but is now a media celebrity. It has been argued that reporting on his actions and statements only ads some legitimacy to his ideas. It’s also been argued that the reporting brings potentially dangerous views to light. Your thoughts?

*Not Terry Jones the British comedian.

“See, our music is Christian-oriented. And she seems to have a strong faith in the Christian religion and she comes across as being a fine lady and we just thought that people might like to hear her speaking.”

– National Quartet Convention president Les Beasley on how the convention decided to invite former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to speak at this year’s event in Louisville. Palin will also speak at a fundraiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul. Read more here.

The United Coalition of Reason has been working to put atheist or skeptical messages on billboards and buses across the country. The latest billboard went up this week in Louisville. The Louisville Coalition of Reason has worked with the national group to post the message on I-65 southbound at Phillips Lane, near the fairgrounds.

Here is what it looks like:

The sign is a softer sell (if you could call it a “sell” at all) than the “Hell is real” billboards that caused a controversy in March. In fact, Louisville CoR coordinator Ed Hensley referenced those signs when I asked him about his group’s billboard.

“We have a right to post a billboard that conveys a positive message,” he said in an e-mail. “The purpose of the billboard is to inform people about the non-believers in our community. Christians have billboards such as the “Hell Is Real” billboard throughout Kentucky. Some of these billboards actually threaten drivers with eternal torture. Our billboards convey the positive message of rational thought.”

Hensley says his group isn’t trying to balance out the messages on local religious billboards. The CoR wants to appeal to a different audience.The CoR’s mission statement stresses the pursuit of science, understanding and the separation of Church and State. For more on the distinction between skeptics, agnostics, atheists and New Atheists, try this piece from Slate.

Are you an agnostic, atheist or skeptic? What are your thoughts on religious billboards?

Also of note: This billboard will be near a religiously-themed pro-life billboard on I-65 northbound.

Related: This 2009 story from Elizabeth Kramer

Elsewhere: Atheist bus ads caused minor controversies, but were well-receieved by others.

Kentucky Public Radio’s Stu Johnson filed this piece yesterday:

Legislation to permit bible literacy courses in Kentucky high schools has easily cleared the Kentucky senate.

Individual school councils would decide whether to offer the elective bible literacy class. Bill sponsor David Boswell says if the course is taught and not preached, it meets constitutional muster…

“We’ve promoted this piece of legislation purely from an academic standpoint from its inception,” he says.

Boswell says the bill doesn’t mandate a certain version of the bible. The measure passed 37 to one with Lexington senator Kathy Stein voting no. She says she believes the bill is “fraught with peril.’’’

“There will be a great deal of pressure on teachers in various communities to teach the bible as true history,” she says.

Stein says children of other faiths or no faith at all might drop the course. Boswell’s not sure how the bill will fare in the house. If passed into law, he says courses could probably be offered this fall.

From Rick Howlett and the AP:

THE KENTUCKY SENATE HAS VOTED OVERWHELMINGLY TO ALLOW BIBLE CLASSES TO BE TAUGHT IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS ACROSS KENTUCKY.

THE BILL CLEARED THE SENATE ON A 37-1 VOTE THURSDAY AND NOW GOES TO THE HOUSE FOR CONSIDERATION.

DEMOCRATIC STATE SEN. KATHY STEIN (stine) OF LEXINGTON CAST THE ONLY DISSENTING VOTE. SHE QUESTIONED THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE MEASURE SPONSORED BY SEN. DAVID BOSWELL, WHO’S ALSO A DEMOCRAT.

UNDER THE PROPOSAL, BIBLE COURSES WOULD BE OFFERED AS ELECTIVES, MEANING STUDENTS COULD DECIDE WHETHER TO TAKE THEM.

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