why fundamentalist evangelical republican politicians scare me (and should scare you too)

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, standing in front of a wall of mounted animal heads, tells the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet that he does not believe in “evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory”, which he defines as “lies straight from the pit of Hell”. Broun is a Republican representative on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

This is the US Congressman from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, Dr. Paul Broun. He is a member of the Republican Party and the Tea Party Caucus.

He recently gave a speech to the “Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet” (yes, THAT exists, I kid you not) on September 27, 2012, in Hartwell, Georgia. (This explains the WALL OF MOUNTED ANIMAL HEADS that serves as a backdrop for the Congressman.)

Watch a clip of the speech:

Here is the transcript of what he said:

God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.

Now, I’ve come to accept that there are some people on this earth that will NEVER accept science, no matter how logical, rational, or intellectually compelling it is because they are not interested in facts; they are interested in maintaining the beliefs and worldview compiled thousands of years ago by desert nomads. But this is not the problem.

Every American has every right to be religious. And every American has every right to make religious speech (just not in places where others are compelled to listen to it or participate in it, like public schools). And every American has the right, if they so choose, to deny reality. You can argue that aliens created human technology, Santa Claus, whatever – you have that right.

Every American, if they so choose, can choose to deny basic science, facts, and data. That too is OK…foolish, but within one’s constitutional rights. Likewise, every American has the right to elect as their representative someone reflects their skewed, ancient, and defunct worldview – a representative who also denies facts and information that science provides. Therefore, even though such behavior is utterly foolish IMHO, Americans have the right to believe what they want, deny reality if they want, and elect someone as their representative who reflects the denial of science, facts, and reality. It’s foolish, but they have these rights as Americans. This too is not the problem.

The real problem, and what frustrates me to no end, is that the Republican Party would place someone like Paul Broun, who obviously has a disdain for science and the factual reality of the world around us, to THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY! Forget the fact that he’s been married four times. Forget the fact that he’s a Conservative Evangelical. These aren’t the problem. The problem is that, based upon his fundamentalist religious convictions, he DENIES the fundamental tenets of science. Yet, despite this, the Republicans named him the CHAIR of the SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS AND OVERSIGHT!

The Republicans bring this upon themselves.

While I’m sure the Medical College of Georgia is embarrassed to have Dr. Broun represent them as an alum who rejects the “lies” of basic medical disciplines like “embryology” and other tenets of basic science, they can’t help what he chooses to believe and deny today. But the Republicans can! The Republicans do themselves a major disservice when they promulgate the perception – one rightly deserved – that they are anti-science, and that they are anti-science precisely because they are conservative Evangelicals.

Do you see the problem? The Republicans don’t have to promote a scientifically ignorant congressman to the Committee on Science. Yet, they do. Thus, the Republicans completely deserve to continue to be chided as the party of anti-intellectualism and anti-science, because they continue to elevate people who see no possible compatibility between their faith and the reality of the worldview that basic science has provided. For fundamentalist Evangelical Republicans, faith and science are an either-or choice. And they choose faith. And that’s OK. But that the GOP elevates them and puts them in places of authority over budgets and curriculum for science and technology, this is the problem.

I shake my head.

new mythology-based fantasy themepark coming to kentucky

Ark Encounter

Ark Encounter

A new myth-based fantasy theme park is coming to Kentucky. The park, which will be called Ark Encounter, promises to expose visitors to myths and fantasies that will rival those of Disneyland. The park’s main attraction will be a 500-foot long reproduction of the Bible’s Noah’s Ark. The park will also feature an ancient walled city (perhaps bringing to mind Jericho), a petting zoo, live animal shows featuring giraffes and elephants, and a full scale reproduction of the biblical Tower of Babel (as the park developers envision it).

The park has attracted some controversy, however, as some have argued that because it is a religiously-themed park, it should not qualify for state tax breaks and incentives, such as the Enterprise Initiative Act Tax Refund Program for which Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has stated the park has applied. Governor Beshear argues there is nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about the proposal. He said the law does not allow the state to discriminate against a for-profit business based upon the product or subject matter of its products. The Governor compared the Ark park to NASCAR, arguing that not everyone loves NASCAR, but that did not stop him from authorizing tax incentives to help the Kentucky Speedway hold a Sprint Cup race next year.

The developers are cleverly attempting to avoid the church-state argument by establishing the Ark park as a for-profit business. Unlike many other faith-based organizations, establishing a for-profit business means the group will forfeit tax exempt status in the long term in exchange for job-creating tax breaks up front. Essentially, the Ark park is gaming the system to get its tax breaks at the beginning. The Ark Encounter website specifically notes that “the tax incentives do not go to non-profit AiG, but to the for-profit Ark Encounter LLC.”

But there should be no doubt that the Ark Encounter is a faith-based enterprise. Not only is the park centered on Biblical stories, but the park will be managed by fundamentalist Christian Creationist group Answers in Genesis, which also runs a Creation Museum park in Petersburg, Kentucky. The Answers in Genesis jobs website specifically states that in order to be eligible for employment at AiG or the Creation Museum:

“All job applicants need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG statement of faith.”

As a taxpayer incentivized, for-profit business in Kentucky, the Ark Encounter will not be allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of testimonies and declarations of faith as Answers in Genesis openly does at the Creation Museum. Only time will tell if the park will “unfortunately” be “forced” to convert to a not-for-profit, faith-based organization after it deals with the inevitable first volleys of discrimination lawsuits. (If it does, will it refund the tax incentives to the state?)

However, if the park’s developers and management are able to avoid employee religion-based discrimination pitfalls, it will most likely be successful in building the park. It will be interesting to observe whether the park declares its purpose as one of attempting to convince visitors of particular faith claims, or if they stick to the mission statements of other theme parks which center around simple entertainment and filing children’s heads with fantastic tales like those Disney productions that would never be physically possible in a world governed by science and physics.

And while Governor Beshear repeatedly touts the benefits of the park – investing $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky, bringing tourism to Kentucky, creating 900 full- and part-time jobs, an estimated annual impact of over $200 million on the state’s economy, and attracting 1.6 million visitors in its first year – I wonder if he’ll go the distance and compare this for-profit theme park to other mythological fantasy parks like Disneyland, Disney World, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As long as the Governor and the park’s developers are on record as stating that this park makes no faith claims about religious truth, and is instead only another fantasy-based theme park like Disneyland, there should be no quarrel.

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