Freethought Today · September 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Ark park transfers land back to for-profit entity

Officials at Ken Ham's ark park have sold their main parcel back to their for-profit entity for $10, likely because it was cheaper to pay a safety fee than lose an $18 million tax incentive.

The issue began in June after Ark Encounter LLC sold the land to its non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon, for $10, even though the property is assessed at $48 million.

The move coincided with Ham's refusal to pay a safety assessment tax levied by the city of Williamstown, Ky. City officials feared the sale could be the first step in the park claiming non-profit status, which would exempt it from property taxes.

But on July 18, state tourism officials said the land sale breached the sales tax rebate incentive agreement, which was with Ark Encounter LLC, not Crosswater Canyon, meaning the park would not be able to collect the $18 million in incentives.

On July 21, the parcel was switched back to Ark Encounter LLC, again for $10.

Michigan community sued over property ownership

A Michigan housing association community is being sued for allowing only Christians to own property within the community.

According to the suit filed by the Bay View Chautauqua Inclusiveness Group, the Bay View Association of the United Methodist Church is guilty of violating the First Amendment, the federal Fair Housing Act, Michigan's Constitution, and civil rights laws.

In 1942, the board of the association said that anyone who owned a cottage on its property had to meet two requirements: They had to be white and they had to be Christian.
The board dropped the "white" requirement in 1959, but the Christian one remained. Even now, prospective buyers have to include a recommendation letter from a pastor.
The lawsuit argues that Bay View isn't affiliated in any meaningful way with the UMC. It operates independently from the church and it's owned by a for-profit company. It also pay taxes, an admission that it's not a church property. And it maintains and uses "state-delegated police power."

Kentucky allows public schools to teach bible

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed a bill allowing bible courses in public schools.

The law, which easily passed the state House and Senate, gives local school boards the option of developing a bible literacy class as part of their social studies curriculum. The course would be elective, not required.

"The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy. I don't know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this," Bevin said at the signing of the bill.

The ACLU of Kentucky said it's concerned about how the law might be used in schools.

"A bible literacy bill that, on its face, may not appear to be unconstitutional, could in fact become unconstitutional in its implementation," said Advocacy Director Kate Miller.
All anti-abortion groups not exempt from ACA

Nonreligious anti-abortion organizations are not exempt from the Affordable Care Act's mandate that their health insurers cover birth control in employees' insurance plans, a federal appeals court has ruled.

On Aug. 4, a split three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that secular groups — even if their stance on abortion aligns with religious groups — are not entitled to religious exemption from the contraceptive mandate in the ACA, often called Obamacare.

The court's ruling affirms a federal judge's dismissal of a challenge to the mandate under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution filed by Real Alternatives Inc. "Real Alternatives is in no way like a religious denomination or one of its nontheistic counterparts — not in structure, not in aim, not in purpose, and not in function," 3rd Circuit Senior Judge Marjorie Rendell wrote in the court's majority opinion, joined by Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr.: "We do not doubt that Real Alternatives's stance on contraceptives is grounded in sincerely held moral values, but religion is not generally confined to one question or one moral teaching; it has a broader scope."

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