Ark Encounter official pens an op-ed claiming religious liberty is under attack

Ark Encounter official pens an op-ed claiming religious liberty is under attack December 26, 2014
Photo: Ark Encounter, LLC
Photo: Ark Encounter, LLC

Still upset over losing their 18 million dollar tax incentive, Mark Looy, the COO of Answers in Genesis and The Ark Encounter recently submitted an “Op-Ed” to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Given that the piece is now only posted on the AiG website, I assume the piece was rejected, most likely because it is not an op-ed, but defense piece in which the organization still pretends it is allowed to break the law.

It starts:

In addition to refuting the myth that tax dollars will be used to build our life-size Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky,

Which is red-flag number one, because this is a lie. It is correct that the initial construction does not need this tax incentive to get underway or for the organization to complete stage 1, but even Ken Ham himself has said on video that the other stages will rely on that 18 million dollar rebate to complete the rest of the project.

Looy then goes after the meat of the whole debate and why the park lost its tax incentive in the first place:

Answers in Genesis has had to spend considerable effort rebutting another myth: that it is illegal for the Ark Encounter to hire only people who can sign its statement of faith.

It is interesting to note that the state and activist secular groups can point to no specific law or statute that would deny a religious organization like AiG or Ark Encounter the right to hire staff members who agree with its mission. Indeed, why should we give in to the state’s demand and give up our rights to hire people of faith? Nobody seems to want to force the group American Atheists to hire Christians (and we do not advocate it).

Actually, I have pointed to this exact law in almost every single article I have written about this. It goes as follows According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website:

Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

And then plainly states:

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Looy also mentions American Atheists. Here is a huge difference, American Atheists is a religious non-profit, and in fact, AA does not require that their employees be Christian or sign any statement declaring that they are not a Christian, all AA requires is that you stand for the same secular issues as they do, women’s rights, equality, separation of church and state issues, etc.

However, certain laws would still protect AA from hiring based on religious preference because they stay within the law based on the Civil Rights Act.

The Ark Encounter is not a non-profit, they are clearly and openly a for-profit corporation as they are an LLC. This does not make them a religious organization no matter who owns them. AiG is allowed to hire based on religious preference, The Ark Encounter is not.

But let’s break down the 5 points Looy tries to make:

–It is well established in federal and state law that religious organizations are permitted to give employment preference to adherents of their own religion. Since the Ark Encounter is owned and operated by our Christian organization, it is allowed to avail itself of these provisions of law just as every other religious entity in Kentucky. Without this important exemption in the law, no church or religious organization would be able to maintain its identity or any consistency of message.

It is so well established that Looy did not mention a single state or federal law by name or code. Again, Looy pretends the for-profit park is a religious organization. Can Disney a religious organization and only hire people who worship Mickey Mouse?

–Supportive federal law includes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Act prohibits discrimination in hiring practices, it specifically carves out an exception for churches and religious organizations, which are permitted to give employment preference to followers of their own religion.

Yes, it specifically carves out exemptions for which a for-profit theme park does not qualify.

–An example of federal case law in this regard includes a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which pointed out that the court has long recognized that the government may (and sometimes must) accommodate religious practices, and that it may do so without violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

So Looy believes a theme park should be accommodated based on a 1987 Supreme Court decision that actually only applied to the discrimination of an employee fired for her religious beliefs from a for-profit company. The case in question, HOBBIE v. UNEMPLOYMENT APPEALS COMM’N OF FLA., 480 U.S. 136 (1987), was filed when a women joined a church that no longer allowed her to work on the Sabbath and she was fired for missing those shifts after notifying her employer of the religious requirements.

The state of Florida then declined the women’s unemployment benefits and the court ruled that this violated the women’s religious rights.

This case has nothing to do with what The Ark Encounter is doing. Nothing at all, in fact this case could probably be used by an employee fired or denied a job by The Ark Encounter if his or her religious beliefs differed from the parks.

Guess Looy didn’t do his research on that one and instead quote-mined a piece he thought worked. Oops.

–State law, in Kentucky Revised Statute Section 344.090, specifically provides: “[I]t is not unlawful practice for . . . a religious corporation, association, or society to employ an individual on the basis of his religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, or society of its religious activity.”

You can view the statute here, and it does say just as Looy states. Except, Looy leaves out something important, he just says “a religious corporation” as the law states, but in Kentucky, under federal law, a religious corporation is a non-profit IRC 501(c)(3).

Again, to drive the point home, The Ark Encounter is a for-profit corporation, not a religious non-profit.

–Further, nowhere in the state’s TDA are there requirements that religious entities must agree to any special conditions to receive incentives.

He is correct, the TDA does not discuss religious organizations at all, but just because it doesn’t state that, by no means implies that applicants can break state and federal laws and still qualify.

To receive tax incentives you must be in compliance with all laws and not be in constitutional violation. I believe a religious organization could apply and be granted this tax incentive if they followed all state and federal laws under that portion of the business. Just as when the Salvation Army is granted government money to help house and feed those in need, they must follow all federal and state laws when doing so. The Salvation Army got in trouble for breaking this law and paid the price.

So there you have it. Another statement by AiG that is full of lies and misleading information. They continue to claim they are being discriminated against and have time and time again failed to provide evidence to support their case and continue to ignore all the evidence presented to them that clearly show that they are violating both state and federal laws.

Last week their attorney was on Fox News claiming they will be taking the state to court, and the more this unfolds, the more I am beginning to welcome the idea of this case.

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