According to a press release by Answers in Genesis this morning, Ark Encounter officials have asked for an injunction from the state in order to override the blocking of tax incentive money from Gov. Steven Beshear and his tourism secretary. This action takes place even after the organization filed a lawsuit against the state.
AiG is asking the court that its rebate application be treated by the state as it would one filed by a non-religious group and go through the approval process without being blocked. The Tourism Authority had already given preliminary approval to AiG’s application, but when secularist groups around the country vigorously protested, the governor and his tourism secretary, Bob Stewart, bowed to the pressure and kept the application from being voted on by the Tourism Authority.
Except this application is not being filed as if it were a non-religious group because the Ark Encounter has stated more than once they are running a religious organization and plan to discriminate against employees based on their religious beliefs.
AiG and its affiliates, Crosswater Canyon and Ark Encounter, filed their civil rights lawsuit February 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The suit shows that Sec. Stewart and Gov. Beshear are engaging in unlawful religious discrimination by “wrongfully excluding the plaintiffs from participation in the Kentucky Tourism Development Program simply because of who the plaintiffs are, what they believe, and how they express their beliefs.”
This is again another false statement as the tourism board and governor both knew what and who the project was all about, however they did not grant approval for discrimination. The Ark Encounter is a for-profit organization and must follow state and federal laws, including Equal Opportunity Employment laws.
Gov. Beshear has even vocally supported the project, but upon the denial of the tax incentives made his reasoning very clear,
“While the leaders of the Ark Encounter had previously agreed not to discriminate in hiring based on religion, they now refuse to make that commitment and it has become apparent that they do intend to use religious beliefs as a litmus test for hiring decisions.”
But these facts have not stopped the lawsuits from going forward,
“The state gave us no choice but to bring this legal action,” said Ken Ham, AiG president and the visionary behind the new theme park. “We, along with our attorneys, tried for many months to show these officials why their actions are blatantly violating our rights under the federal and state constitutions, as well as the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The law is crystal clear that the state cannot discriminate against a Christian group simply because of its viewpoint, but that is precisely what is happening here.”
Ham once again is missing the whole point, or at the very least pretending to miss the point in order to scare the state into submission.
The park lost the tax incentive not because of who they are, but because of their unlawful actions.
The tactics used by Answers in Genesis are becoming more and more desperate, as news surfaced that the park had lied about attendance projections after the tax rebate had been denied and then news that the organization is not making enough money to sustain itself. This is making the need for tax payer funds to complete their project and keep the entire business afloat has become more paramount.
Let’s hope the state does not cave to the demands of an organization which is not seeking religious freedom, but is clearly seeking religious privilege.