Answers in Genesis President and CEO Ken Ham revealed that his organization is filing a lawsuit against Kentucky for denying the Ark Encounter theme part participation in the state's tax rebate incentive program. AiG is arguing that the refusal is based on religious discrimination against the creationist group's beliefs.The state has simply said that it is revoking the credits in light of Ham’s hiring practices, and that support of the tax credits would constitute state-sponsored religion. Ham responded thus:
"Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary," Ham said in a statement on Tuesday. "However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility toward religion in America, and it's certainly among the most blatant."
"The state granted its preliminary approval for the incentive. Only after the atheist groups objected and publicly attacked the state's preliminary approval, did the state renege on its commitment," Ham said in December.More on the text of the lawsuit can be found at the AiG website, here. It reads, in part:
"AiG, as a religious organization, has the legal right to hire people who believe in our Christian faith," he added.
The suit specifically alleges that state officials discriminated against AiG and the Ark project “by wrongfully excluding them from participation in the Kentucky Tourism Development Program. Plaintiffs are denied access to this tourism incentive program because of who they are, what they believe, and how they express their beliefs, in flagrant disregard of their constitutional and statutory rights." AiG points out that its lawsuit was filed a few hours after President Barack Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he declared that America must “constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion . . . and to do so free of persecution, and fear, and discrimination.” In addition, this afternoon the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit just released an opinion (in Conlon v. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) reaffirming that faith-based groups have an essential constitutional right to make employment decisions consistent with their religious beliefs.Back when the tax credits were originally revoked, in the middle of December, Dan Arel, over at Patheos, pointed out some inconsistencies in Ham's defense. For one, Ham states that the tax breaks are not money to help finish the project, yet as Arel writes:
But suspiciously Ham then says that park would use this rebate to offset the cost of building. So in reality, since the park is being built in phases, he is asking the state for the money to complete the project. This is exactly why the park is relying on this rebate.The second point relates to the law about hiring practices. Arel notes that the Ark-n-Park is being set up as a for-profit enterprise. It, therefore, falls under the EEOC laws. Only churches and non-profits organizations can hire anyone they want to. Ham continues to refer to the project as a religious project but, as Arel points out, it has been set up as a business.
Ham has been duplicitous about this project from the start, originally stating that AiG had only a small role in the project (around the 3:25 mark) and that it was clearly a for-profit business venture. That was hardly believable at the time. Now, as Ham states, it is AiG that is doing the hiring and and he is crying foul because, as a religious organization, he ought to be able to hire who he wants. I doubt the suit will end well for AiG and Ark Encounter.