Religious Discrimination May Kill Ark Park Tax Incentives

Ken Ham’s proposed Noah’s Ark theme park may be at risk of losing the tax breaks they got from the state of Kentucky again. Remember when they posted an ad for workers at the park requiring that they agree to Answers in Genesis’ Christian loyalty oath? That’s kind of illegal and the state of Kentucky noticed that after Americans United notified them of that ad.

In an Aug. 27 letter, Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart pointed out a problematic job posting, which advertised for a computer-assisted design technician to work on the ark. The application was posted on the website of Answers in Genesis, the parent company of Ark Encounter, which also operates the Creation Museum in Petersburg.

The Herald-Leader obtained the letters through the state Open Records Act.

The state was notified of the posting by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Stewart wrote that such a job posting would be against state and federal hiring laws.

“Therefore we are not prepared to move forward with consideration of the application for final approval without the assurance of Ark Encounter LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring for the project and will revise its postings accordingly,” Stewart wrote.

In an Aug. 28 response, Ark Encounter attorney James Parsons said the posting was for Answers in Genesis, not Ark Encounter, and that the park officials would honor the requirements for state tax incentives.

Neither Parsons nor Answers in Genesis CEO Mike Zovath was available for comment Tuesday.

Stewart wrote back on Sept. 4, reiterating that the posting was explicitly for the Ark Encounter project.

“The commonwealth does not provide incentives to any company that discriminates on the basis of religion, and we will not make any exception for Ark Encounter LLC,” Stewart wrote.

What a surprise, AIG is lying. The job listing was specifically for “CAD Technician Designer, Ark Encounter.” Sounds like the state isn’t going to let them get away with it, which is good.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • D. C. Sessions

    Sounds like the state isn’t going to let them get away with it, which is good.

    Good, but also amazing.

  • Chiroptera

    That can’t be right. I’m pretty sure AiG counts as a “closely held corporation” and so has a religious right to ignore all the laws that everyone else has to obey.

  • dhall

    I find it troublesome that a state government agreed to provide any funding whatsoever for a religious project period, whether it would engage in discriminatory practices or not. If I lived in Kentucky, I would be very angry that my tax monies were going to such a thing. This is not appropriate under any circumstances.

  • Nentuaby

    D.C. Sessions:

    I’m not surprised. One of the few things that keeps our rickety society going is that when you try to blow smoke up a regulator’s ass that way, for once their emotional stake in the matter corresponds perfectly with their official duty.

  • moarscienceplz

    What a surprise, AIG is lying.

    Oh for goodness sake! You are just being SO unfair to Ken Ham. He can’t have a non fundie-Christian working cheek-by-jowl with his True Christian staff! They might be exposed to some of the inconsistencies in Hammy-boy’s belief system and start to question it. And since moral behavior can only come from an unquestioned Ham-flavored Christianity, Ham HAS to lie in order to protect moral behavior.

    😉

  • Alverant

    How soon before we hear cries of persecution from Ham because he has to follow the same laws as everyone else.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @Chiroptera #2 – Except this isn’t about whether or not they have to obey the law: this has to do with whether or not they get their tax bennies.

    Several sections of the Kentucky Constitution seem to lay out a case against government sponsorship of religious discrimination, and I suspect that there is some rather harsh common law precedent on the matter. I also suspect that the state doesn’t care about excluding Muslim, Jewish or atheist workers so much as the fear that their particular brand of snake oil will not make the cut.

  • John Pieret

    I’m pretty sure AiG counts as a “closely held corporation” and so has a religious right to ignore all the laws that everyone else has to obey.

    Yeah, but the actual owner of the “Ark Encounter” theme park is a nominally public corporation (which is why they could get tax incentives from the state in the first place). AiG is pulling one giant scam here, with the park publicly owned to get state tax benefits but staffed by AiG employees so they can impose religious strictures on the staff of the park. The flaw in AiG’s plan is that the state doesn’t have to give them a tax break.

    Boy, it’s good to know the 10 Commandments is the moral foundation of the US!

  • Michael Heath

    Chiroptera writes:

    That can’t be right. I’m pretty sure AiG counts as a “closely held corporation” and so has a religious right to ignore all the laws that everyone else has to obey.

    Perhaps the conservative majority at the SCOTUS will soon rule that way.

  • jimmyfromchicago

    The larger question is why the state of Kentucky, whose constitution imposes a duty on it to support education, would be supporting, well, the opposite of education.

  • Doug Little

    So did they finally get enough funding to go ahead?

  • dugglebogey

    The problem isn’t that they are being denied tax dollars in this once instance. The problem is that tax dollars are being used for bullshit like this in the first place.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    jimmyfromchicago “The larger question is why the state of Kentucky, whose constitution imposes a duty on it to support education, would be supporting, well, the opposite of education.”

    Because dinosaurs are awesome. That’s a fact!

  • raven

    The Ark Park has been screaming “SCAM” since day one.

    1. The Ark Park, a for profit corporation owns it but AIG, a religious nonprofit runs it. But Ark Park is owned by…AIG.

    Or something. These convoluted schemes are hard to understand and remember. Which is the whole idea.

    2. It is possible the Ark Park will never be built anyway. AIG had trouble selling their unrated, no guarantee junk bonds so they bought a lot themselves.

    AIG itself isn’t doing so well. The Creation Pseudomuseum is losing money and attendance. AIG itself is profitable on merchandising.

    3. These nontransparent, dubious projects attract a lot of hands in the treasury, legally or not.

    They may just start it and wait until the improvements are in, power, roads, water, sewage, cable, phone, And then run into trouble and end up putting up condos or a housing development.

  • DaveL

    I was wondering whether they actually had evidence of religious discrimination, or whether they were just inferring it from the posting being on AIG’s site. But no, they really put their foot in it, from the first link:

    language in the park’s job application that requires “salvation testimony” and a “Creation belief statement.”

  • busterggi

    I’d call the whole Ark Park a pyramid scheme but for the fact that the pyramids pre-date the supposed flood.

  • Childermass

    Nice to see they self destructed.

    Not succeeding because they explicitly violated the law is outright funny. I have got to wonder if AiG’s legal advice is even worse at law than its “scientists” are at science. Gee, the place is not even open yet. They actually care if the the guy hammering the nail…

    Wow.

  • eric

    A teensy bit more detail on Stewart (AiG)’s reply can be found here. Could be a lawsuit in the offing. Sounds like AiG’s responded with: ‘if you make us write ‘assurances’ before giving us the tax breaks, it violates our freedom of religion.’ Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like the state budged any. But could we be seeing Hobby Lobby II?

    h/t to Matt Young from Panda’s Thumb for this one.

  • Doc Bill

    AIG co-founder Zovath commented that there was nothing in the Kentucky Tourism Act that specifically said they had to comply with hiring practices.

    According to the news report Zovath is claiming: “Zovath said the state has added a requirement about hiring practices that is not part of the existing tourism tax credits law.”

    Clearly Zovath is “playing stupid” here which is going to get AIG’s tail in a crack. This is Hovind’s Defense that there is no “specific law” that requires him to pay taxes. But, really, it comes down to Zovath claiming he’s a Christian therefore special and he can do whatever he wants.

    Sound childish? Well, now you understand AIG!

  • Phillip Hallam-Baker

    @Childermass 17

    You mean those Regent Law school grads are less than competent lawyers? What a surprise. I guess there is a difference between the type of lawyer who you use to buy/sell a house and the type you use for like contracts, litigation and such.

    Faith based lawyering…

  • whheydt

    Re: busterggi @ #16…

    You could call it a pyramid scheme except for one thing…the pyramids actually got built.

  • http://mostlyrational.net tacitus

    But could we be seeing Hobby Lobby II?

    That would seem to be the thrust of their argument.

    I thought what AiG had originally planned was that the main park would be run as a secular company (eligible for tax incentives, etc) and that only the centerpiece Ark Encounter would be part of the ministry, thus keeping it a separate legal entity and avoiding (evading?) this kind of problem.

    But if they’ve been forced to build the Ark Encounter first, then I guess that put paid to their original plans, or it was just something they were saying at the time in order to get the subsidies. I hope the state officials stick to their guns, now and if and when the park opens for business. People will be watching closely, that’s for sure.

  • http://mostlyrational.net tacitus

    Can’t wait for phase two of the park. There’s going to be a “Ride through the plagues of Egypt” (Ham’s words). Sure to be a big hit with the young kiddies!

  • lordshipmayhem

    This weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

    I find it eminently appropriate that we’re discussing Ham. Ken Ham’s hamfisted ham acting faux outrage.

    I give thanks for the comedy gold.

  • dingojack

    tacitus – is ‘the Ham who Smokes Himself’ gonna illegally import some Ebola-ridden Mexicans, then? Quick call Sheriff Arpaio!

    Dingo