Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Tax Incentives for Ark Encounter

Back in August I covered the latest attempt by Answers in Genesis to fund their "Ark Encounter" theme park based around a life-sized model of Noah's Ark. After failing to raise enough money by selling junk bonds and soliciting donations to obtain a set of tax breaks from the state of Kentucky, Answers in Genesis applied for a second set of tax breaks that they looked likely to receive. Unfortunately for them, job postings on their web site specified that only fundamentalist Christians need apply.

On those grounds, the state of Kentucky has denied the park's application, since recipients of state tax breaks are not allowed to hire in a discriminatory fashion. Tourism Arts & Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart informed the group of the decision, and explained that without the park's discriminatory hiring policies the application likely would have been accepted, as the state otherwise supported the project. He also noted that Answers in Genesis had pledged to the state that they would not discriminate, and then put up job postings to that effect anyway.

Stewart explains that their application will not go forward because the state will not grant incentives to a company that openly intends to discriminate in hiring based on religion, saying it is a violation of the state constitution for these incentives to be used to advance religion. He detailed how Ark Encounter representatives had previously promised not to discriminate in hiring several times, but recently they have stated they have every right to do so, saying, “The Commonwealth’s position hasn’t changed. The applicant’s position has changed.”

Stewart cited AiG CEO Ken Ham’s Nov. 19 fundraising letter that accused the Beshear administration of religious persecution and reaffirmed their desire to discriminate in hiring based on religion. He also cited other statements throughout the year from AiG officials claiming the purpose of the park is to evangelize and indoctrinate its visitors.

“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry,” wrote Stewart. “However, state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the Separation of Church and State provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

So Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis will have to go ahead and build their ark using their own money, which given the religious nature of the organization is as it should be. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the entitlement of these folks, in that they apparently went ahead and lied to state officials in order to secure funding and expected it not to be a problem. Here I was thinking that Christians were supposed to be honest, but clearly Ham's brand of fundamentalism teaches that lying is fine and good so long as in your opinion you're doing it to serve God.

That just goes to show what a toxic version of the Christian faith Answers in Genesis is preaching. It's Poor Oppressed Christianity through and through, and deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

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