By DYLAN T. LOVAN
2009-02-14 06:56 AM
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ordered Australian-based Creation Ministries International into arbitration with Answers in Genesis, the founder of a popular Kentucky museum dedicated to creationism, over copyrights and control of affiliates in other countries. Answers in Genesis had asked for arbitration.
The dispute highlights a rift between former friends who started a biblical creation ministry three decades ago in Australia before one left to develop a following in the U.S.
Ken Ham settled in northern Kentucky and built the $27 million Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, which has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors to its exhibits since opening in 2007. The museum outlines the Old Testament's version of creation and asserts that the earth is only a few thousands years old.
Ham's success "caused significant tension" between the groups, "as each vied for control of what was becoming an increasingly international movement to teach creationism," the appeals court ruling said. The decision upheld a lower federal court ruling that also dismissed an attempt by Answers in Genesis to be shielded from a lawsuit filed in Australia.
In that 2007 suit, Creation Ministries International accused Ham of using the Australian ministry's subscription lists to sell his own creationist magazine, "Answers."
Anthony J. Biller, an attorney for Answers in Genesis, said in a statement after the appeals court ruling Friday that Creation Ministries should "stop its lawsuits and resolve these disputes in private, binding arbitration ..."
But Richard Getty, a Lexington attorney representing Creation Ministries, said, "If there's going to be an arbitration, they should have left that to the Australian court."
Ham started the Creation Science Foundation in Australia in 1980 with Carl Wieland, who had been publishing a creation science magazine since the 1970s, according to court records. Ham later moved to the U.S. and started Answers in Genesis, which quickly grew in membership and "eclipsed its Australian counterpart."
The two ministries shared ownership of international affiliate groups until disagreements prompted the U.S. and Australian ministries to meet in 2005 to draw up agreements concerning copyrights, Web site domain names and intellectual property owned by the foundation. Those agreements were approved by both groups' boards but Wieland rejected them, appointed a new Australian board and renamed the group Creation Ministries International, the ruling said.
The Australian lawsuit, filed on the day the Creation Museum opened in Kentucky, alleges Ham used a database containing the names and addresses of 39,000 subscribers to two Australian-produced magazines without seeking permission from Creation Ministries.
A hearing in the Australian suit is scheduled for April, Getty said.