Putnam County in Carmel, N.Y., will no longer use county e-mail to promote prayer breakfasts.
The unlawful e-mail, sent by the director of personnel in the fall of 2013, invited county personnel to attend the 22nd Annual Putnam County Leadership Prayer Breakfast. The e-mail also included a Christian invocation: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselvese [sic], and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive them, and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.”
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert wrote a letter to Putnam County on March 17, highlighting the unconstitutionality of government endorsed religious events. She called it “grossly illegal and inappropriate for the Director of Personnel to be promoting a patently religious event, such as a prayer breakfast.”
Markert added, “In addition, it is grossly inappropriate to include religious references in any email directed at local government employees.”
After May 29 and June 30 follow up letters, counsel for Putnam County responded on July 10 that, “The individual who sent the e-mail in question regarding the Prayer Breakfast event has been advised not to send such notices by County e-mail in the future.”
Moody Air Force Base (AFB) Ga., has removed a requirement that only Catholics need apply for a position as music director.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation was alerted to the July 15 job advertisement, which requested a “Catholic Music Director to provide worship services at Moody AFB Chapel.” The job posting specified a requirement that “the contractor shall maintain a lifestyle consistent with Catholic principles” for the position, and that the applicant would “not be required to perform duties that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover informed Moody Air Force Base on July 18 that it “must modify the discriminatory solicitation to comport to the requirements of the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act.”
Grover noted that the religious test violates the equal employment provisions of the Civil Rights Act, which guarantee that military departments may not discriminate on the basis of religion. He recommended they change the position titles “so as not to indicate a requirement that the contractor be Catholic.”
Within 15 minutes of receiving the letter, an AFB representative called FFRF to apologize for the impermissible language in “all of the solicitations” and indicated that Moody AFB intends to “modify the verbiage” used in all of the base’s job postings as well as remove the “Catholic lifestyle” requirement.
Take action now! The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority is expected to give approval tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29) of major tax incentives for a proposed $172.5 million Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.
Ark Encounter is a project of Answers in Genesis, which describes itself as an “apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and which created the Creation Museum in Boone County about 40 miles away. The museum’s founder, Ken Ham, famously debated Bill Nye earlier this year. “God has burdened AiG to rebuild a full-size Noah’s Ark,” Ham wrote on his website.
The plan calls for a 510-foot wooden ark , reportedly to cost $24.5 million alone, as part of the 800-acre Ark Encounter park to open partially constructed in summer 2016. As of February, the group had only raised $14.4 million. The park is also to include a “pre-flood themed area,” live animal shows and a “Tower of Babel” featuring a theatre and “first-century village.”
A Kentucky program allows eligible tourism attractions a 25% rebate on sales tax collected for such items as admission tickets, food, souvenirs, etc., over a ten-year period. The rebate might total as much as $18.25 million.
If the tourism board votes yes Tuesday, as expected, final approval would be sought within two months. The state first granted preliminary approval in 2011 for up to $43.1 million in sales tax rebates over 10 years, with Gov. Steve Beshear’s very open blessings. Answers in Genesis withdrew the appication after funding delays and has had to reapply.
Public help has already included a $62 million municipal bond offered from the city of Williamstown, where the park is to be located. Bloomberg News reported that tourist attractions have defaulted on such bonds as Williamstown offered, with the added risk of legal challenges based on the state/church entanglement.
Please phone or email the tourism department now!
If you wish, use any of the language below. If you live in Kentucky, please be sure to identify yourself as a Kentucky taxpayer:
As a Kentucky taxpayer and resident, I strongly oppose granting public tax incentives for the pervasively sectarian (and financially overblown) Noah’s Ark Encounter, whose purposes are avowedly fundamentalist. Please vote against preliminary approval of tax incentives for Answer in Genesis’ religious proposal. It is deeply offensive to me as a Kentucky citizen to read Answer in Genesis’ rationale for this theme park: that “the Ark is a reminder of God’s judgment upon a sinful world. It can also serve as a picture of salvation.” The State of Kentucky has a duty under and secular Constitution not to aid and abet religious ministries, and should stay above the fray, ensuring that it does not appear to be granting preference for bible literalism at the expense of its citizens.
Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize an avowedly Christian fundamentalist project based on a wacky literal interpretation of Genesis. A “yes” vote will open the state up to protracted litigation. Please safeguard taxpayer dollars by keeping state and church separate.
Thank you for taking action now!