The internet is rightly abuzz with the state of Kentucky giving an $18 million tax break to Answers in Genesis (which is bad grammar, they have only one answer, “god,” and even that isn’t really an answer). Patheos’ own Dan Arel has already covered this brilliantly, but here’s the short version (<—this whole article is worth a read):
“On the day the tax incentives were recommended, the Answers in Genesis website had a help-wanted advertisement,” Phelps notes.
The job description included this statement: “Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost.”
job postings at Answers in Genesis include this statement: “All job applicants for the non-profit ministry of AiG/Creation Museum need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation, and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG Statement of Faith.” The AiG Statement of Faith claims “it is imperative that all persons employed by the ministry in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, should abide by and agree to our Statement of Faith, to include the statement on marriage and sexuality, and conduct themselves accordingly.”
It also requires all employees to believe and support “the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge,” and the “66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science.”
“The only legitimate marriage sanctioned by God is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other, and has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s gender, or disagreement with one’s biological gender, is sinful and offensive to God.”
In other words, LGBT people and most Christians need not apply.
The question keeps coming in: is this legal? How come nobody has sued these people yet??? It sure looks like a violation of several laws to me. AiG calls itself a ministry, says its goal is to evangelize a sectarian religious belief, and openly claims it won’t hire gays or non-Christians. This is not where state money should be going. I reached out to some legal people asking these questions and got some answers. This is from Andrew Seidel at the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
“FFRF and our state-church watchdog friends at AU, AHA, ACLU, etc. are all keeping a close eye on this debacle. There are a number of legal problems with the park–public funding, tax breaks, and hiring discrimination to name just three. Clearly, Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis don’t understand the law, but what else can you expect from a man who thinks the bible is accurate, the earth is 6,000 years old, that snakes can talk, and that dinosaurs and people played together in a garden?”
What I suspect is going on here is patience. There’s no need to rush into a lawsuit, since Ham isn’t going to close up shop and hasn’t shown the intelligence to be terribly sneaky. I reckon they are sitting back, building their case, and letting Ham dig himself into as deep a hole as possible. From the sound of this quote, all the major legal groups on the side of a secular government know this is illegal and are interested in stopping it. I would be incredibly surprised if this goes uncontested.
The other quote I got was from the legal contributor to this blog, Anne Orsi:
It is definitely not in the best interest of the public to spread brain-numbing misinformation in order to bring money into the community. According to the linked news articles, the tax break was given because income from tourism is expected to offset the tax break. However, the cost to education is too dear to allow such absurdist and anti-scientific “theories” to be supported by tax dollars. This is very bad public policy, and it violates the separation of church and state.
Even if the theme park earned all the money back for the state (which is a very big if), that makes it tantamount to a loan. Giving a group whose sole purpose is to evangelize state money does not become any more moral simply because they swear the state will make it back. You simply cannot help religious groups do this as the government, which is supposed to represent all citizens equally.
So the answer to these question are:
1. Fuck no this isn’t legal.
2. Yes, the state is likely to get sued by any number of legal groups when they decide the time is right.
3. Yes, Ken Ham is a shitty human being.