Ark Park Promises to Fight for ‘Religious Freedom’

The people behind the proposed Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky, Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, are promising to fight for their “religious freedom” — err, I mean fight for the tax breaks they were granted. Those tax breaks are now in jeopardy because of their plan to hire only a particular brand of Christians to work at the park.

Ark Encounter, which is slated to open in 2016 in Williamston, Kentucky, is not hiring anyone yet, but its parent company, Answers in Genesis, asks employees to sign a faith statement including a belief in creationism and the flood.

State officials and Ark Encounter lawyers have exchanged letters in which the state threatened not to proceed with tax incentives for the park if there was discriminatory hiring practices, a state official confirmed on Wednesday.

The letters between the parties came to light after the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader obtained them through open records requests.

“We’re hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn’t go further than this,” Ark Encounter’s Executive President Mike Zovath told Reuters.

Zovath, who is also co-founder of Answers in Genesis, said that if tax incentives for the project are withdrawn because it does not give written assurances the state now seeks, it would violate the organization’s First Amendment and state constitutional rights.

No, it doesn’t. Discrimination on the basis of religion has been federal law for 50 years now and the courts have consistently upheld it. Churches and some other religious organizations are exempted from that law, but for-profit companies are not. And hey, didn’t they first claim that they weren’t discriminating at all at the ark park, that the ad they put up for jobs at the park was really for Answers in Genesis, which is exempted from anti-discrimination law because it’s a non-profit? They can’t seem to keep their stories straight.

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  • holytape

    All I can imagine is Ken Ham in rusty armor, holding a broken lance, while riding an old donkey, charging at the windmills of secularism.

  • John Pieret

    They can’t seem to keep their stories straight.

    That’s always the problem when you lie.

  • lanir

    Yeah… When you’re as twisted as these yahoos are, “straight” gets to be relative.

    Speaking of which… Wow, you sure linked to a disturbing little wart of a news site for this.

  • jamesredekop

    They’re fighting awfully hard for government handouts, aren’t they? What happened to personal responsibility?

  • raven

    I’d be surprised if this Ark Park ever gets built.

    They have had trouble raising money. Their junk bond issue floundered and AIG ended up buying some. AIG isn’t doing well itself and they likely used money from the bond sales to buy…the bonds.

    They might get all the improvements in, power, roads, phone, cable, water, sewer, start building it, and then end up putting up condos or a housing development.

    This whole project has been screaming scam from the beginning. And xian affinity group scams are very common, a whole industry.

  • whheydt

    Perhaps…a real life “Springtime for Hitler” project? One that will work as intended?

  • raven

    This whole Ark Park organization is a convuluted mess.

    A nonprofit owns a for profit company.

    Why doesn’t Ark Encounter just change its status to a nonprofit religious organization? Then they can discriminate their black, shriveled little hearts out. And be tax exempt anyway.

    Maybe, it is because they couldn’t sell their junk bonds then. No junk bonds, no Park.

  • eric

    From some of the earlier articles, it looks to me like they are not claiming Ark Park has a right to discriminate in hiring (yet). What they’re claiming is that its discriminatory for KY to insist that they provide extra written assurance/affirmation that they will not discriminate. The line seems to be “hey, you didn’t insist other companies do this to get their tax breaks, why are you insisting we do it?” Of course, the reason KY has asked for those assurances is because AIG put a blatantly illegal hiring offer out on their web site. But they seem to think that’s not a reasonable justification.

    Like Raven, I think at this point the park is going to tank without ever opening its doors. The question is whether it will be a long, slow death, or a sudden implosion. And whether when it does tank, it will take AIG with it.

  • eric

    Why doesn’t Ark Encounter just change its status to a nonprofit religious organization?

    It couldn’t get the tax breaks then. The tax breaks are intended to encourage for-profit businesses to set up in KY to improve/increase the local economy. No for-profit business, no $18 million (estimated) in tax breaks.

  • erichoug

    So here’s the really sad part. How this is going to play out is the park will eventually cave because they can’t operate without the tax breaks.

    If they do eventually open, there are going to be people who take a job there simply because the need a fucking job. Those people will then get to spend their days getting evangelized to by all the other park employees who see their real job as converting these poor misguided souls instead of running the cotton candy machine.

    Poor bastards.

  • eric

    @10 – if they are lucky, it’ll just be co-workers evangelising them. More likely, it’ll soon become clear that raises and promotions correlate with church attendance and whether you pray before starting your shift, before you eat, after you eat, after you end your shift, etc…

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed:

    They can’t seem to keep their stories straight.

    Possibly someone clever realized that for Answers In Genesis to hire someone to do work for the exclusive benefit of the for-profit Ark Encounter LLC could jeopardize AiG’s 501(c)3 tax exempt standing by violating the “benefit of any private individual” prohibition.

    On the other hand, it may just be that they’re too stupid to keep their lies consistent.