Ken Ham's Ark Park Risks Losing State Tax Incentives Over Hiring

Mike TuttleLife

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Ken Ham’s “ark park” might be in some serious trouble. The leader of the “Answers in Genesis” empire, which oversees the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, has had some trouble getting things off the ground with his new “Ark Encounter”.

The Ark Encounter is intended to be a “life-size Noah’s ark project”. The website describes it as:

“[A] one-of-a-kind historically themed attraction. In an entertaining, educational, and immersive way, it presents a number of historical events centered on a full-size, all-wood Ark.”

But wait, there’s more. Ham envisions an entire “theme park”, with the “theme” being structures from the pages of the Bible.

“Additional future phases for the attraction include a Walled City, the Tower of Babel, a first-century Middle Eastern village, a journey in history from Abraham to the parting of the Red Sea.”

But Ham’s vision has run into a bit of resistance from people who have an issue with a company that gets state tax breaks, which AiG (Answers in Genesis) does, specifying a religious requirement in its hiring notices.

The office of the Governor in Kentucky sent AiG a letter about their requirements that explained the issue:

“A recent job posting on the website of Ark Encounter’s parent company, Answers in Genesis, states that any applicant who desires to work on the project as a computer-assisted design (CAD) technician must submit a ‘[c]reation belief statement,’ as well as '[c]onfirmation of [their] agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.'"

This “AiG Statement of Faith” is where things got hairy for the State.

Per the required Statement of Faith, an applicant must profess, inter alia, that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the bible is literally true in order to be considered for the job.”

Apparently, in order to get the tax incentives that they wanted, AiG had agreed to not post such requirements.

“Because Ark Encounter’s ongoing religious discrimination violates terms to which it previously agreed in order to receive these tax incentives, see Exhibit C (“Tourism Development Agreement”) at 6, and because state-subsidized religious discrimination raises serious concerns under Section 5 of the Kentucky Constitution, we urge the Authority to deny final approval of Ark Encounter’s latest application for tax incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act."

The “Tourism Development Agreement” that the letter references states plainly, as a condition of receiving the tax incentives:

"The Company will not discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring employees for the Project.”

The letter from the Governor’s office was dated August 22, 2014.

But this month, Ken Ham posted to the AiG blog page that news articles about the warning from the State were “humorous” and “rumors.”

“I’m sure many of you have read one or more recent news reports that present various, often confusing theories about the Kentucky tourism tax refund program that the Ark Encounter has applied for,” Ham said in the post.

He railed against “atheist bloggers” who claimed his pet project might be in jeopardy. He blamed the difficulty on “the paranoia of the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) … [a] vehemently anti-Christian, anti-creationist group [that] seems to be obsessed with trying to stop Answers in Genesis.”

Ham went on to say that his group did not remove the job posting in question because they were pressured to do so, but because they had filled the position. Nonetheless, he confirmed that, “The Ark Encounter … will carefully adhere to all applicable federal and state laws in hiring.”

However, a current job posting on AiG seeks an “IT Solutions Developer” with exactly the same requirements.

ITEMS NEEDED FOR POSSIBLE EMPLOYMENT
• Resume
• Salary Requirements
• How you found out about this position
• Salvation testimony
• Creation belief statement
• Confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith

Ham says that AiG is well within its rights to demand such requirements because the tax incentives that Kentucky is granting do not apply to the building of the project, just to the sales tax after the park is open. He argues that they are not hiring for the open park yet, not even close.

“The tax rebate incentive only applies to a percentage of sales tax generated within the park after it’s opened and if and when it meets certain guidelines … we are [not] using a tax incentive to build the Ark … the tax incentive is a rebate after the project is built and operational.”

But, according to the Tourism Development Agreement that was signed to get the tax incentives, this may, at best, be a distinction without a difference. Recall, that clause in question was:

"The Company will not discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring employees for the Project.”

The Agreement specifically defines “The Company” as “Ark Encounter, LLC.” And the “Project,” or “Tourism Attraction Project,” is very specifically defined, as well:

“‘Tourism Attraction Project’ means the acquisition, including the acquisition of real estate by a leasehold interest with a minimum term of ten (10) years, construction, and equipping of a tourism attraction; the construction and installation of improvements to facilities necessary or desirable for the acquisition, construction, and installation of a tourism attraction or redevelopment project, including (but not limited to) surveys; installation of utilities which may include water, sewer, sewage treatment, gas, electricity, communications, and similar facilities; and offsite construction of utility extensions to the boundaries of the real estate on which the facilities are located, all of which are to be used to improve the economic situation of the approved company in a manner that allows the approved company to attract persons. The Project, as a Recreational Facility, is a Tourism Attraction Project.”

This definition would appear to cover all phases of The Project, including hiring for construction.

Ham is correct that the tax incentives are not, technically, the same as “using a tax incentive to build the Ark.” But to get his incentives after the Project is open, he may have made a deal with the Devil.

Mike Tuttle

Writer.
Google+ Writer for WebProNews.