Belief

This Week in Religion: For-Profit Ark Park Sues Kentucky For Right to Discriminate

The twisted thoughts of the religious right got very bent as the holidays approached.

Only a few weeks after permission was granted to display a Satanic holiday display at the Florida capitol building, a woman wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Catholic Warrior” tore it down.

Susan Hemeryck, 54, was so upset with the display, which depicts an angel falling into a fiery pit of hell, that she destroyed it. Also on display was a standard nativity and an 8-foot-long Festivus pole made of beer cans, which Hemeryck left untouched.  

Hemeryck reportedly stormed into the building and told two Capitol Police officers what she intended to do. When told she could not vandalize the display, she began ripping it apart. Hemeryck was then arrested and charged with criminal mischief.

“I was there at the right time and the right moment and I needed to take a stand against Satan,” Hemeryck said.

Continuing the theme of religious tolerance, Sakeena Majeed, a Muslim women serving 60 days in Cuyahoga County Jail, is suing the facility after a correction officer allegedly forced her and other inmates to attend church services led by a Baptist minister. The correction officer reportedly threatened inmates with solitary confinement if they did not attend the Christian gathering.

“That should be offensive to anybody, no matter what your religion is,” said her attorney Matthew Besser, who filed the lawsuit. “The government can’t tell you what god to pray to or to pray at all.”

Being incarcerated does not negate your right to freely choose and express your faith. And the government, whether federal or municipal, does not have the right to impose or endorse any one religion.

Only weeks after losing an $18 million tax incentive for his Ark Encounter theme park, Ken Ham is still up in arms. He is now claiming the Commonwealth of Kentucky has violated his company’s constitutional right to hire only creationist Christians as employees, blaming atheist groups for forcing the state to deny the tax incentive.

Appearing on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Ark Encounter attorney Mike Johnson called the recent events “tragic” and insisted that the company had a right to discriminate against employees like all other religious organizations and to do otherwise would “change their identity.” Johnson said the organization is planning a lawsuit against the state for its denial of the tax incentive.

What Johnson left out was that the Ark Encounter is a for-profit business and not a religious organization. The company is not protected by the same laws as religious non-profits such as churches or even Ken Ham’s other projects like the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis.

In keeping with its theme of “fair and balanced” news, the Fox News host suggested the park was being singled out and that Christians should donate to help the project succeed.

You can add another name to the long, long list of anti-gay pastors who have been caught engaging in homosexual activity. Pastor Gaylard Williams was arrested for trying to force himself on another man in the town of Cypress Lake, a popular fishing attraction in Florida.

According to the police report, Williams approached his car and when the victim rolled down his window to see what he wanted, Williams reportedly “reached in and grabbed him.” Williams allegedly “wiggled his fingers near his genitals” and the victim told officers that the pastor “tried to tickle me.” According to the report, Williams kept pushing the man for some fellatio, but the younger man told him he was “barking up the wrong tree.”

Williams was arrested and charged with sexual battery. On searching his vehicle, police discovered gay pornography, which Williams claims he was delivering to someone. He said the video was “a promotional thing” he received in the mail at his church office.

Williams has a long history of preaching anti-gay rhetoric and according to one deacon at his church, “stood by the pulpit and said, ‘The Bible is clear on that. That’s sin; you’re going to go to hell for doing that.’”

Williams who is denying all charges, was released on his own recognizance.

Two other Christian pastors were picked up this week for allegedly sexually assaulting underage churchgoers. Dylan Ritterman, a youth pastor at a Hillsboro, Oregon church was arrested December 18 on allegations that he “unlawfully touched” two boys, said Lt. Mike Rouches, a spokesman with the Hillsboro Police Department. The boys were 14 or 15 at the time, he said. The investigation started back in October after one of the victim’s mothers contacted the Hillsboro Police Department about the alleged assault. 

And in Arkansas, a Hot Springs youth pastor was arrested for the rape of a 13-year-old girl. According to the police report, the victim stated that she and Jackson engaged in sexual intercourse five different times at his residence, which he shares with his wife.  Earlier this month, police reportedly found inappropriate text messages between the two on the victim’s phone.

Dan Arel is the author of Parenting Without God and blogs at Danthropology. Follow him on Twitter @danarel.
 
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