A six-ton killer whale that caused the death of a SeaWorld trainer in Florida deserves to be executed because of biblical mandates, a staff member at the American Family Association (AFA) insists.
The whale, known as Tillikum, pulled trainer Dawn Brancheau underwater Feb. 24 at the Orlando park. Brancheau’s death led to a lot of discussion about what should be done with the whale and whether it is appropriate to keep killer whales (also known as orcas) in captivity and force them to perform for people’s entertainment.
Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issue analysis for government and public policy, had a different take on the matter. In a blog post published online, Fischer argued that the Bible mandates that Tillikum be put to death.
Fischer noted that Tillikum had earlier killed a trainer at a Canadian aquarium in 1991 and a man who jumped into the whale’s enclosure at SeaWorld in 1999. The whale should have been destroyed in 1991, Fischer wrote, because the Book of Exodus requires the execution of any animal that kills a human being.
“If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives,” Fischer wrote.
Fischer cited Exodus 21:28, which states, “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished.”
“So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death,” Fischer insisted. “You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.”
Furthermore, Fischer notes that the Bible mandates that an animal’s owner be executed if the animal kills more than once.
On Americans United’s blog “The Wall of Separation,” Church & State Assistant Editor Rob Boston wrote that when he first saw Fischer’s column, he thought it might be satire. Boston called Fischer, who confirmed that he meant the piece to be taken seriously.
“Fischer’s column has more than a whiff of Christian Reconstructionism about it,” Boston wrote. “Reconstructionists, you might recall, insist that every jot and tittle of Old Testament law be binding on modern society. Thus, gay people, fornicators, those who worship ‘false gods’ or anyone who engages in ‘witchcraft’ (among other things) would merit the death penalty.”
Concluded Boston, “Sometimes people ask me why we get so worked up about the Religious Right here at Americans United. Fischer’s column, as daft as it is, is a good answer to that question. Here’s a guy who wants to kill (by stoning, yet!) a 12,000-pound whale that he believes is guilty of murder – all because of a blind adherence to his fundamentalist reading of the Bible. If this is the fate that awaits Tillikum in AFA’s vision of a perfect society, what do you think is going to happen to you the next time you offend ‘biblical law’?”
In other news about the AFA:
• The Rev. Donald Wildmon has stepped down as chairman of the AFA. Wildmon, who founded the organization in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency, has been in ill health since he contracted St. Louis encephalitis after being bitten by a mosquito in 2009. Wildmon’s son, Timothy, is now running the Tupelo, Miss., organization. The senior Wildmon intends to stay involved as an adviser.