Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

A group of atheists is so riled up by the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky that they've started a billboard campaign to discourage people from visiting it. The proposed billboard says: “Genocide & Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 years of myths" and for a gift of $500, donors can have their face among those drowning outside the Ark. It's an attention grabber no doubt, but the effort amounts to free advertising for the park which is set to open in July.

For a story they insist is unbelievable, the Tri-State Freethinkers seem overly worried that some people might actually believe in Noah's Ark. Jim Helton, President of the 1300 member atheist group, warns that "while they have a legal right to celebrate their mythology, we find it immoral and highly inappropriate as family entertainment." Oh where to begin?

Positive note: these atheists welcomed the term "immorality" into their vocabulary. Negative: atheists exegeting Bible stories are bound to miss major points.  Of all the things to protest as immoral in our day, it is wildly off-target to pick on a Bible story meant to teach what happens to people when they become immoral. It is no less ironic that the Tri-State Atheists are imposing their concept of morality from a worldview that is bereft of moral absolutes. Such contradictions aren't uncommon but increasing are displays of hostility by fundamentalist atheists offended at public displays of religion.

The city of Wilmore was threatened with a lawsuit last fall because of a cross on a water tower. In December, a Johnson County grade school play of A Charlie Brown Christmas was censored to omit the reading of the nativity story from the Bible.  And the Ark Encounter lost its business tax incentives because of its company policies based on religious convictions. The incentives have since been restored but examples of religious hostility are increasingly abundant.

That's why the Kentucky State Senate recently passed several bills shoring up religious freedom. SB 15 protects public school students' religious freedom. SB180 protects business owners from being coerced to participate in activities that would violate their conscience. And SB 5 protects county clerks' conscience rights regarding same-sex marriage.  These are simple and much needed protections, yet the state House leadership is stonewalling each of the bills.

Other states have grappled with shoring up religious freedom, including Georgia where Gov. Nathan Deal recently vetoed a bill that would protect pastors from being forced to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies and churches from accommodating them. It would have also protected faith-based ministries from violating their mission. That such a simple provision to protect religious vocations and institutions failed is a barometer of the seriousness of the hostility to our First Amendment freedom—a hostility in this case fueled by Disney, the NFL, and LGBT lobby.

Which brings us to another objection the Tri-State Freethinkers have with Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter. They contend their hiring policy is discriminatory against LGBT people. Of course, if Tri-State Freethinkers were consistent in their hiring policy (were they in a position to hire) they shouldn't discriminate against monogamous heterosexual Bible-believing Christians. Of course, such demands are a one-way street.

Sexual politics and practice are on a collision course with religious freedom and orthodoxy in our increasingly secular culture. Such tension is as old as when Baal worshipers were confronted by the prophet Elijah. The origins of such tensions are profoundly religious. There is no escaping that every one of us—atheists and believers alike—hold a view on ultimate questions in life: Origins—where do I come from? Meaning—what am I here for? Morality—how should I live? And destiny—Where am I going? Few seem to give much thought to those realities but perhaps even more pressing is whether people can pursue answers to those questions and publicly live according to their conclusions.

This column appeared in the Richmond Register on April 7 and the Lexington Herald-Leader on April 8.