Earlier this month the state of Kentucky announced that it will be denying $18M in tax incentives to the Ark Encounter because its employment application stipulates that prospective staffers must be fundamentalist Christians. Today Answers In Genesis, the creationist parent organization of the Ark Encounter, claims that their religious freedom to discriminate is being discriminated against.
In addition to refuting the myth that tax dollars will be used to build our life-size Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky, 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. Yet the state, in its letter to AiG last week (and simultaneously leaked to the press), is illegally denying the Ark the opportunity to benefit from the Tourism Development Act (TDA) due to hiring issues. Kentucky is demanding that AiG check its religious freedoms at the door if it is to receive TDA benefits.
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).
The demand by the state to have the Ark Encounter surrender the hiring rights it has under state and federal law in order to benefit from the TDA—otherwise made available to all other qualifying parties—imposes a huge burden on the Ark Encounter’s freedom of religion and smacks of overt religious discrimination. We have assured state officials many times that the Ark Encounter will follow all applicable federal and state laws in operating our theme park, and the state has no basis to demand otherwise.
Have American Atheists requested $18M in tax breaks to build a for-profit amusement park?