AU—the Straw Man Experts!

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Well I have to admit it!  The anti-creationist group Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) are experts at one thing: making the straw man fallacy.  They are vehemently against biblical Christianity. AU frequently invents straw-man arguments to try to discredit, undermine, and attack organizations like Answers in Genesis.

A straw-man argument is defined this way:

Straw Man is one of the commonest of fallacies. It is endemic in public debates on politics, ethics, and religion. A straw man argument occurs in the context of a debate―formal or informal―when one side attacks a position―the "straw man"―not held by the other side, then acts as though the other side's position has been refuted.

This fallacy is a type of Red Herring because the arguer is attempting to refute the other side's position, and in the context is required to do so, but instead attacks a position not held by the other side. The arguer argues to a conclusion that denies the "straw man", but misses the target. There may be nothing wrong with the argument presented by the arguer when it is taken out of context, that is, it may be a perfectly good argument against the straw man. It is only because the burden of proof is on the arguer to argue against the opponent's position that a Straw Man fallacy is committed. So, the fallacy is not simply the argument, but the entire situation of the argument occurring in such a context. (

Last night (August 22), the Courier Journal (a Louisville news source) posted an article reporting on a letter they say AU sent to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky and the members of the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority about our Ark Encounter project.

According to the Courier Journal report (which appeared in its print edition today):

State tax incentives should be denied to the Noah's Ark theme park in Northern Kentucky because of discriminatory hiring practices, a national organization for the separation of church and state told Gov. Steve Beshear in a letter Friday.
Apparently AU’s letter referred to an employment position available at Answers in Genesis. The Courier Journal reported as follows:
The group's letter noted that the Answers in Genesis website includes a job posting for a computer-aided design technician specifically for Ark Encounter. And that posting says 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."
Yesterday a reporter for the Courier Journal interviewed Mike Zovath, one of the founders of the AiG ministry and vice president in charge of the Ark Encounter. At least the reporter did quote Mike accurately—the news item states the following:
Zovath said the job posting seeks an employee of Answers in Genesis, which he said has several employees who work to plan the ark park, but are not employees of Ark Encounter. "Until we're ready to start operations, we're not doing any hiring for the Ark Encounter," Zovath said.

The Answers in Genesis website includes a note that draws a distinction with the future hiring for the park: "The Ark Encounter LLC is the for-profit group that will be responsible for hiring staff for the Ark project. Available positions will be made public at a future time and will be posted on the Ark Encounter website."

The reporter also accurately quoted AiG VP Zovath when he stated the following:
He said Ark Encounter's hiring policies have not yet been written.

"The Ark Encounter will have its own set of hiring policies," Zovath said. "We will follow all of the applicable state and federal employment laws in the hiring for the Ark Encounter."

So, because the Ark Encounter hasn’t even set up its hiring policies yet and has not employed anyone, AU has written to the governor and other state officials to tell them we will be breaking laws (even though no laws have been broken), and, therefore, we should be denied the tax refund incentive (i.e., the possibility of getting a refund of sales tax collected at the finished Ark if the attendance is strong).

In the news article from the Courier Journal, we also read as follows:

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said in the letter that the website of the park's parent organization, Answers in Genesis, requires job applicants agree with its Christian "Statement of Faith."
It is true that AiG, just as AU, is a 501c3 organization that receives tax deductible donations.  And AiG, like AU, has the freedom because of the Statement of Faith of the organization to require employees to adhere to that statement.  I’m sure AU wouldn’t want to employ a biblical creationist like me as its head, and AiG wouldn’t employ an atheist!

AU describes their mission this way: “Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.”

Now, does AU employ a person who disagrees with the AU stance on “church-state separation?” Of course not. AU is very selective in its hiring practices because of its mission—and federal and state laws specifically (and logically) allow such an organization to do.

Not unlike AU, and virtually every other mission-minded organization in the country, AiG maintains a standard set of basic beliefs (Christian ones, in our case) that everyone in the organization must agree to. In spite of AU’s attempt to make this seem like some extraordinary, sinister plot to ostracize opponents, the AiG Statement of Faith is merely an unremarkable restatement of essential ideas that have been held in common by all Bible-believing Christians for 2,000 years.

Our Statement of Faith is posted on our website. Here is the excerpt that bothers AU the most:

The only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other, and has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s gender, or disagreement with one’s biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God. ( ).
Yes, it’s clear that AU is an expert at setting up the straw-man argument! And its leaders are also experts at expressing intolerance of those who hold views different than their own. AU claims on its website that it wants to protect religious freedom, but in reality, AU only wants freedom for people whose views agree with their own!

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