AIG Ark Park Loses State Tax Breaks

After approving millions of dollars in tax breaks for Answers in Genesis’ planned Noah’s Ark theme park, not once but twice, the state of Kentucky has now decided that they are ineligible for those tax breaks because they plan to discriminate in hiring and because the park will proselytize:

A proposed Noah’s ark theme park in Northern Kentucky has been turned down for around $18 million in state tax incentives amid concerns that it will promote religion and violate the separation of church and state.

But the group behind the project — Answers in Genesis — says it is considering legal action in federal court.

The state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter theme park has changed it’s position on hiring policies since it originally filed for incentives in 2010 and now intends to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

It also said the park has evolved from a tourist attraction into an extension of the ministry activities undertaken by Answers in Genesis, which promotes a literal interpretation of the Bible’s old testament and argues that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote in the letter. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

I’m amused by that statement. If tax incentives can’t be used to fund religious indoctrination, why the hell were they approved in the first place? It’s a Noah’s Ark theme park, for crying out loud. It can’t be anything but religious indoctrination. That was true both times you approved the tax breaks too. And I’m just gonna put this here:

Ark Park Meme

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • frankgturner

    There is a board on this at Pharyngula as well. That quote about Aushwitz is good though. Bravo Ed Baryton.

  • troll

    Auschwitz actually happened, though.

  • frankgturner

    @ troll

    Fictional or not, celebrating mass genocide is not a good idea. Museums that respect the dead are the kind of thing one would expect to see in Auschwitz.

  • anubisprime

    If tax incentives can’t be used to fund religious indoctrination, why the hell were they approved in the first place?

    It would be tempting to assume that the righteous in Kentucky’s legislature that rubber stamped the original applications, hoped that no one would check to deeply as to the veracity of the project.

    They know very well what they were doing.

    If not that have no business in that position of trust, they are incompetent…simples.

    This was a deeply flawed brain fart from the start…AiG are trying it on…as in don’t ask don’t get…and sympathizers in the legislature probably…being in Kentucky one might assume at least a few non-AiG cretinists involved…faintly considered the application just shuffled it on without in depth inquiry, just a vague question or two about recruitment for the shape of it, AiG of course lied with a wink and the bozos passed it then crowed about the promise of jobs for the community.

    Notice that the project can still carry on…no sanctions accrued as to the blatant lies given to the Cabinet that AiG offered concerning the original application…

    Maybe they thought they were home and dry after the passage of the project seemed to be progressing and considered it no biggy to finally admit off hand that of course biblical literalism was a requirement for hiring, thinking they were, you know, among friends…seemed they were not…maybe there was some interference run by the Hovind clan…their income must be abysmal compared to what Hambone was boasting about, and the Hovind’s being bears of little brain believed him…who knows?

  • scienceavenger

    I’m disappointed. I was really looking forward to seeing how they were going to handle the myriad problems with construction of such a vessel, and how they were going to explain all the necessary work arounds. Just the vast staff that would be needed to feed even a handful of permanent animal residents would raise uncomfortable questions.

  • John Pieret

    AiG is not completely without arguments. Government development agencies can include religious institutions in projects intended to improve neighborhoods or foster, for example, construction employment as long as it is done generally neutrally to all religious groups and non-religious groups or persons. As fairly obvious examples, governments can provide police, fire department and sewer services to churches that are also provided to everyone else.

    On the other hand, there is no right to development funds but there might be limits on the criteria used to determine whether of not to give them (imagine a town that gave police, fire and sewer services generally, including churches, but denied them to mosques).

    Where AiG is going to have problems is its claim that that it can discriminate in hiring based on the “ministerial exception” to equal employment laws. Are they going to claim all its employees (according to one story I saw, the vast majority of whom will be part-timers) are ministers, including the ticket takers, the bathroom cleaners, the animal wranglers?

    If I was the state, I would also be pushing the idea that the agency has lost [cough] faith in the value of the project based on the sneaky way AiG changed what was originally supposed to be a for-profit company int a religious institution.

  • U Frood

    Yeah, it might have been more instructive if Ham and been allowed to demonstrate that even with modern technology the ark was simply not feasible. Now he can just blame it on liberals causing him financial problems.

  • frankgturner

    @ John PIeret # 6

    Are they going to claim all its employees (according to one story I saw, the vast majority of whom will be part-timers) are ministers, including the ticket takers, the bathroom cleaners, the animal wranglers?

    I have a (now retired) uncle who was an electrician that worked for a contractor that did construction for Disney. He could not be an official employee of Disney as they have to be “cast members” which has something to do with customer service. The difference is, instead of trying to bullshit their way around some of the jobs, they just outsourced them through other agencies.

  • anubisprime

    It would seem that Yahweh might be a tad reluctant to have a visible reminder of his earlier temper tantrum foisted on his creation.

    Dude is thoroughly embarrassed by the whole kiddy fit thing and might be actively scuttling summat that he considers a colossal mistake and blow to his ego and standing, which by the way could still end up by him being summoned to the Hague to answer a few questions in the genocide court….

  • peterh

    Too bad, in one respect, that Ham’s Folly won’t be built. Any visiting engineer would be able readily to point out such a structure made from wood could not possibly hold together in still water much less in a prolonged weather event whilst being heavily laden with a numerically impossible volume of critters and supplies.

  • eric

    If tax incentives can’t be used to fund religious indoctrination, why the hell were they approved in the first place?

    Maybe they’re going Lemon test here; making the distinction between the primary effect and a secondary effect. If the primary effect of the park is economic growth, its okay. But now KY suspects that the corporation will sacrifice making money in favor of religious messaging, its no longer a legitimate state investment.

    Pretending for the moment that I’m a venture capitalist, I might make a similar decision. As long as your company looks like its focused on increasing ROI and stock value, I’m with you. The moment you decide that making some political statement or social message is more important than your ROI or your stock value, nope, I’m not with you any more. Not necessarily because I’m against your message, but because I invested in your corporation to make money, and you’re now basically telling me your corporation has no interest in making money any more. My purpose for investment is gone.

    Having said all that…yeah, KY’s statement on its face is pretty silly. There was always religious indoctrination in the Ark Park design.

  • Dale

    I must be missing something. I was under the assumption that the fact that the Ark Park is a for-profit entity would be the reason that they could not discriminate in hiring practices, not that they are a religious non-profit?

    Their for profit status would ensure that there be no discrimination as per Equal Opportunity

    “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;”

    Ham’s conundrum is that if he goes non-profit (he’d have to buy back the junk bonds) he will lose the tax rebate but could discriminate in hiring.

    The governments angle seems wrong.

  • Childermass

    That AiG violated its word not to engage in workplace discrimination is, in and of itself, enough to kill the tax incentive.

    Everyone else is a footnote.

  • hrafn

    If tax incentives can’t be used to fund religious indoctrination, why the hell were they approved in the first place? It’s a Noah’s Ark theme park, for crying out loud. It can’t be anything but religious indoctrination.

    I think that they were okay with the indoctrination as long as AiG wasn’t too blatant about it in selling the idea of the park. As long as AiG were willing to at least nod at the fig leaf that this was a for-profit “tourist” venture, they were happy enough to look the other way about the underlying reality. The discrimination in hiring aspect blew that fig leaf off, and Ham has gotten more and more strident about the religious aspect of the venture since that revelation, making the earlier pretense untenable (both politically and, potentially, legally).

  • Kimpatsu

    “he state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter theme park has changed it’s position on hiring policies…”

    Apostrophes, people!

  • http://mostlyrational.net tacitus

    why the hell were they approved in the first place?

    From what I recall, the original plan was to divide the park into two part. The first, the centerpiece Noah’s Ark exhibit, was to be an explicitly religious non-profit entity funded and operated by the ministry. The second, the rest of the theme park, was going to be owned and operated as a for-profit venture funded from private capital.

    I thought that was how they were planning to qualify for the tax breaks — by adhering to the required state rules and regulations for the majority of the venture, and limiting the ministry’s role to the one, central exhibit.

    It sounded pretty shady from the start, but then, corporations do that kind of legal maneuvering all the time. I guess somewhere along the way that plan was deemed either to be unworkable or unacceptable (perhaps during their funding troubles), and once the Hobby Lobby decision came out, they decided to place all their bets on being able to follow in its wake, daring the Kentucky government to “discriminate” against them by denying them their tax breaks.

    Their stated plan is to file a discrimination suit in federal court based on the Hobby Lobby decision, and they are already using the issue to raise funds for it. Ken Ham certainly knows a gravy train when he sees one.

  • Sastra

    It’s a Noah’s Ark theme park, for crying out loud. It can’t be anything but religious indoctrination.

    Sure it can. Maybe they thought it was part of a franchise for this.

    My kids loved that place.