by William Trollinger
On the face of it, the notion that evangelicals in the United States are being persecuted seems absurd.
Just look at the 2016 election. Donald Trump becomes president, thanks in good part to the support of 81% of white evangelicals. His Vice President is an evangelical (and young Earth creationist), his cabinet is filled with evangelicals (including some more creationists), and he has appointed Jerry Falwell, Jr. to lead a task force to “reform” American higher education.
The Christian Right holds the levers of political power in the US. Nevertheless, according to Answers in Genesis (AiG) CEO, Ken Ham, the War on True Christians continues unabated.
As Ham complains In his May 20 post, “Are Bible Classes in Public Schools Unconstitutional?,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is supporting a kindergarten student and her mother who are suing the Mercer County Schools (WV) regarding its “Bible in the Schools” program. According to the FFRF complaint this program – which includes weekly Bible classes in the elementary and middle schools that are taught by itinerant teachers equipped with “’a degree in Bible’” – “advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students.”
In response, Ham asserts in his post that FFRF’s lawsuit has nothing to do with serious legal issues or the unfair treatment of nonreligious parents and children. The organization’s true motivations are much more nefarious:
Why does FFRF really want to rid schools of elective, voluntary Bible classes? Because its leadership hates Christianity! They are in rebellion against God and don’t want anyone to hear His Word. They aren’t content with having their religion of atheism taught as fact to millions in government schools across America – and using taxpayer money to do it. They also want to ensure that no student is exposed to alternative views, especially Christianity and the Bible.
One might imagine from this quote that what Ham wants is a public square and public schools in which there is a free exchange of ideas, with tolerance of alternative views as the rule. And one would be wrong. Ham understands the culture war as a cosmic battle in which
anti-Christian enemies use false ideas such as tolerance . . . to deceive and muzzle Christians. In this cosmic battle there are and can be no neutral positions, no neutral parties, no neutral public square, and no neutral educational system. (Righting America 163)
For Ham, tolerance is out, and alternative views are out, even (or especially) alternative Christian views. In this regard, it is not at all surprising to discover that the Mercer County “Bible in the Schools” program — which Ham is fighting to save — promotes a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible, replete with young Earth creationism. As documented in the FFRF complaint:
Lesson 2 includes having students imagine that human beings and dinosaurs existed at the same time. Lesson 2 says, ‘So picture Adam being able to crawl up on the back of a dinosaur! He and Eve could have their own personal water slide! Wouldn’t that be so wild?
What’s truly wild is the notion that a public school system would have no problem in having its pupils filled with such nonsense. And speaking of nonsense, Ham concludes his rant against FFRF by complaining about their anti-Ark Encounter video, “Atheist Exposes Ark Encounter.” According to Ham, this video is “filled with outright lies and misinformation,” including the untruth that the Ark benefits from huge taxpayer subsidies. Instead, Ham sniffs, “the Ark is a privately funded facility.”
As we have pointed out again and again, in 2013 the little town of Williamstown, Kentucky issued $62m of junk bonds and loaned Ark Encounter the proceeds to get its project going. It is a sweet deal for the Ark, made much sweeter by the fact that, over the next thirty years, 75% of what Ark Encounter would have paid in property taxes will go to paying off the loan.
Privately funded? Who is telling “outright lies”? Will Ken Ham ever come clean?