Ken Ham’s Ludicrous Lawsuit Against Kentucky

The state of Kentucky pulled millions of dollars in tax incentives it had initially approved for Ken Ham’s tribute to mass genocide, a Noah’s Ark theme park, because the for-profit company that owns the project was planning to discriminate on the basis of religion in its hiring. Now Ham is suing, claiming a violation of his religious freedom.

Answers in Genesis (AiG), developer of the Ark Encounter theme park in Northern Kentucky, confirmed today it is filing a federal lawsuit against state officials for denying the park participation in the state’s tax rebate incentive program. Although the program is available to all qualifying tourist attractions seeking to build in the state, AiG’s application was rejected solely because of the religious identity and message of AiG. The lawsuit explains how this action by Kentucky officials, including Gov. Steve Beshear, violates federal and state law and amounts to unlawful viewpoint discrimination.

“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” said AiG President Ken Ham. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

Oh sweet irony. His company refuses to hire non-Christians, thus engaging in illegal discrimination, but if the government doesn’t give them millions of dollars in tax exemptions despite their illegal actions, the government is treating them like second-class citizens. But the fact is that Ham’s group can’t engage in such discrimination even if they don’t get those tax breaks. It is illegal for a private company to discriminate on the basis of religion, period. So why didn’t they just put the project under the auspices of the AIG “ministry”? Probably because they wouldn’t have qualified for those tax credits if they had.

They want to have it both ways, they want to be a for-profit company that is eligible for tax credits but they don’t want to follow the same rules that apply to every other for-profit company in the state (and the country, for that matter; religious discrimination is illegal under federal law as well).

And let’s not forget that Ham directly lied about all of this. When it was first revealed that they had put up an ad seeking employees for the ark park that required that they sign a statement of faith, his first reaction was to claim that the ad wasn’t for the ark park, it was for AIG. That was a lie.

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  • llewelly

    It’s true that his argument is ludicrous. But what if his real goal is to gin up his supporters and hoover up donations?

    I am afraid that though this will surely be a legal disaster it might be a financial success anyway.

  • theschwa

    All Ham needs to do it get it before SOCTUS and they will get their tax dollars, since it is a tenet of their sincerely held corporate religious beliefs.

  • theschwa

    …and if that doesn’t work, they can try SCOTUS.

  • llewelly

    by the way did you hear that Pat Boone published an article Obama’s Willie Horton plan: Release all murderers containing this bit:

    “This is the 50th anniversary of the film “Doctor Strangelove.” Ironic, if not prescient. This frighteningly successful film depicts a U.S. government and military buying into false information and launching a devastating atomic attack on Russia …”

    But didn’t Pat Boone advocate the invasion of Iraq?

  • raven

    This is a sideshow.

    Not getting the tax break will reduce his gross revenue by 1.5%. If your profit margin is so thin this matters, you aren’t going to be successful anyway.

    Ken Ham et al. have raised $70 million so far. That money isn’t going to disappear. It will however end up in someone’s pocket, one way or another. Even if the Ark Park never gets build or fails, someone is going to get rich off of it.

    Can you say “affinity group scam”?

  • raven

    1. The president of AIG, Ken Ham, earned an annual salary of approximately $150,000 and a total package of around $200,000, which I think is not out of line for the president of a company with approximately $20 million of revenue (Schedule J, Part II).

    Four of Ham’s children, his son-in-law, his brother, and his sister-in-law are listed as staff members, with annual salaries between approximately $1300 and nearly $80,000 (Schedule L, Part IV).

    1. It turns out that 7 of Ken Ham’s relatives work at AIG. Nepotism anyone?

    2. I’m estimating the the Ken Ham gang (or better clan) get a million or two USD out of AIG. Each year.

    It isn’t just salaries. Platinum health care insurance, 401(K) plan, housing allowance, other bennies and perks. Plus expense accounts. Expense accounts are black holes that can hide a lot of income. Not to mention any self dealing schemes they might have.

    3. Follow the money. It’s a short trail that a blind squirrel could run through.

  • whheydt

    Ed…initial statement is wrong.

    The state didn’t pull the incentives. The original grant of tax incentives had a time limit. They expired. The state then declined to grant a new tax incentive package because of Ham’s shenanigans.

    I presume that the “KY pulled the incentives” narrative is from Ham. It’s just another lie of his.

  • peterh

    “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court.”

    No, Kentucky is not treating you like a second-class citizen. The State of Kentucky is treating you like a religion-based group exercising unconstitutional discrimination in hiring based on that religion.

  • eric

    @8: well now that I think about it, the State treating for-profit corporate entities (such as Ark Park) as second-class citizens might not be a bad idea. I don’t have much of a problem with a ‘stratified’ society in which the rights of flesh-and-blood humans trump the rights of, say, Microsoft or Walmart.

  • Area Man

    Raven @6:

    Follow the money. It’s a short trail that a blind squirrel could run through.

    Honestly, there’s nothing suspicious about Ham getting $200,000 in compensation or employing family members at what appear to be modest salaries. Not for an organization burning through $20 million a year with $70 million ginned up for the Ark project. Heck, you can easily find legitimate charities whose officers suck up vastly larger salaries for more questionable reasons.

    It may be that the whole thing is designed to enrich the Ham clan in some way, but the salaries aren’t evidence of that. When the Hams start doing what the Bakkers and Crouches did, and live in giant mansions with $70,000 doggie houses and travel around the world in company jets and yachts, then we’ll know.