Should Kentucky Fund Noah's Ark?

James Maxwell Koffler*

When I first read that Williamstown, Kentucky [a state], was going to be the bond issuer in a multi-million dollar bond offering to finance the building of a replica of Noah’s Ark, I thought that it was a hoax.  Unfortunately, it is true.  This convergence of forces is sure to have Jefferson and Madison rolling over in their graves as two of the things that they distrusted most were “stock-jobbing” and the commingling of religious and state funds.

A rendering of "Ark Encounter" Park.

A rendering of "Ark Encounter" Park.

Apparently the founder of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham, is in the market to expand his land of make-believe, to include a theme park built around the “Ark Encounter.”  The Executive Summary for the Ark Encounter (available on this linked page) states that the project hopes to “rebuild” the Ark as well as, eventually, the world before the flood as told in Genesis.  The first attraction will be a model Noah’s Ark containing live animals.  If that creation is successful then they might build the Tower of Babel, and a frightening Children’s Area where youth can “play in and learn about God’s creation.”

While I am all for this being created, so long a s the animal’s are treated well, the government should not be helping to fund this.   To recapitulate, a governmental entity subject to the restraints of the Establishment Clause under the theory of incorporation is sponsoring municipal bonds to fund a project so that visitors to the Ark “will have a saving encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ[.]”  I do not think that any religious individual should be thrilled to have a municipality helping to fund the first step towards building a theme park for “the greatest story ever [s]old.”  Having the government actively involved in tipping the scales towards a particular religious belief in the marketplace sets an extraordinarily bad precedent.

On the other hand, here is hoping that Stamford, Connecticut chooses to help me fund my “Trek to Tartarus” where kids can learn how Hades ran the Underworld.

*James Maxwell Koffler is a L.L.M. candidate at New York University School of Law, class of 2014, and a staff editor on the Journal of Law & Liberty.

Why Explanations Matter

James Maxwell Koffler*

On August 22, The New York Times had a great overall account of the presence of the Brooklyn Hasidim as a political force. While most of the article was well done, a key omission, however, was an explanation of Councilwoman Christine Quinn's support for New York City’s policy requiring “parents to sign a consent form so they could be alerted to the risks” of the practice of metzitzah b’peh —“oral suctioning of a circumcision wound.” As someone who leans libertarian, especially on issues relating to parental choice, I wanted to know the City’s basis for impeding parental ability to access this ancient religious procedure. As the article states:

"Most prominently, the city has battled with ultra-Orthodox Jewish representatives over the health risks in metzitzah b’peh, a technique for orally suctioning a circumcision wound. Instead of banning the practice outright, health officials instead required parents to sign a consent form so they could be alerted to the risks. But ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders were still infuriated. The matter even became an issue in the mayoral campaign, with Christine C. Quinn defending the city’s policy and her Democratic opponents, including Anthony D. Weiner and John C. Liu, arguing that the Hasidic practice has stood the test of millenniums."

It is startling that The New York Times side-stepped Ms. Quinn’s rationale for supporting this intrusion, not only because the policy infringes on parental rights and religious liberties, but also because I recalled reading a rationale for such a restriction in a previous edition of The New York Times. After searching the periodical’s website, I found the answer to my inquiry in various articles. For example, an article printed on September 13, 2012 entitled “Denouncing City’s Move to Regulate Circumcision” reported that “between 2000 and 2011, 11 babies contracted herpes as a result [of the ritualistic procedure], and 2 of them died.” Aha.

Ordinarily, I err on the side of parental rights (Hey, Toddlers & Tiaras might not be in my kid’s future, but who am I to judge Mama June). In this case, requiring parents to sign a document stating that they know the specific risks posed to the child is actually a better policy than a poll-tested statement “the practice has stood the test of millenniums.” However, by failing to explain the rationale behind the City's policy, the Times provided readers with an incomplete picture of the lively debate surrounding metzitzah b’peh.

Journalists, when you write articles mentioning the “risks” justifying policies which infringe on parental rights and religious liberties, kindly explain the nature of such risks rather than merely glossing over the issue.          

* James Maxwell Koffler is an L.L.M. candidate at New York University School of Law, class of 2014, and is a Staff Editor of the Journal of Law & Liberty.