Kentucky warns Noah’s Ark theme park over hiring practices

October 9, 2014
(A general view of a working replica of Noah's Ark built by Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the Bible in Schagen, the Netherlands March 31, 2006. His ark is constructed with American cedar and Norwegian pine.)

(A general view of a working replica of Noah’s Ark built by Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the Bible in Schagen, the Netherlands, March 31, 2006. REUTERS/Str.)

The developer of a Noah’s Ark-based theme park in Kentucky said on Wednesday he would fight for his religious rights after state officials warned he could lose millions in potential tax credits if he hires only people who believe in the biblical flood.

Ark Encounter, which is slated to open in 2016 in Williamston, Kentucky, is not hiring anyone yet, but its parent company Answers in Genesis asks employees to sign a faith statement including a belief in creationism and the flood.

State officials and Ark Encounter lawyers have exchanged letters in which the state threatened not to proceed with tax incentives for the park if there was discriminatory hiring practices, a state official confirmed on Wednesday.

The letters between the parties came to light after the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader obtained them through open records requests.

“We’re hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn’t go further than this,” Ark Encounter’s Executive President Mike Zovath told Reuters.

Zovath, who is also co-founder of Answers in Genesis, said that if tax incentives for the project are withdrawn because it does not give written assurances the state now seeks, it would violate the organization’s First Amendment and state constitutional rights.

Plans for the park include a wooden replica of the ark during the $73-million first phase and other biblical-themed attractions will be added in phases. The project has been financed through donations and bonds, but Zavath said the state’s incentives could help finance future phases.

In July, Ark Encounter, LLC, received preliminary approval to collect a rebate from a portion of the sales tax revenues generated at its park.

The tourism tax credit is potentially worth more than $18 million over a 10-year period.

Zovath said the state has added a requirement about hiring practices that is not part of the existing tourism tax credits law.

But a state official said on Wednesday that everybody knows laws regarding hiring practices and that the states doesn’t need to elaborate them for companies seeking incentives.

“We expect all of the companies that get tax incentives to obey the law,” Gil Lawson, communications director for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said.

— by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Kentucky

via Kentucky warns Noah’s Ark theme park over hiring practices | Reuters.

16 comments

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No way should the state give money to anyone who so openly discriminates.

Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive

the state or feds should never give money to any religious organization.

Posted by BaiJiuUSA | Report as abusive

I’m reminded of the hobby lobby’s exemption ….. ? I don’t think the state should be involved with commercial religious ventures in the first place. That is up to the people of Kentucky if no federal money is involved , Who am I to say anything?

Will they require patrons of this theme park to sign a “Faith Statement” ?

Posted by memphisindy | Report as abusive

And in other news, the Obama administration is witholding millions of dollars in Federal aid to religious charities that refuse to offer or support the Obama-Care healthcare mandate that mothers be allowed to kill their unborn children, despite the fact that such practices may be against the religious beliefs of these charity organizations. And all of American Media cheers at the persecution of people of religious faith by the federal government. Secularists LOVE to declare a non-existent law about “separation of church and state” to keep God out of government, but the HYPOCRITES stay silent when the government invades the church.

Posted by jarkoer | Report as abusive

Do the Amish get tax credits for their religious tourist towns? One wonders.

Posted by averym | Report as abusive

You can’t pick and choose your rights and responsibilities, if you choose to discriminate your right to tax incentives are voided. Faith based organizations have been testing the water for too long and have been afforded special dispensation when it was not warranted. When a church donates to or makes a decree supporting a political cause or candidate their 501(c)4 should immediately be terminated, this has not happened and is in effect a violation of the “establishment of religion clause” in the constitution.

I am a licensed minister and I believe it is time to enforce taxation and rescind tax exempt status to all religious organizations who think they can have the best of both worlds.

Posted by historymajor | Report as abusive

I don’t understand why the park wouldn’t want to hire nonbelievers. Are they not in the business of teaching and exemplifying the reason for their faith? Would this teaching not extend to those they employ? Jesus did not restrict himself to associating with those who already believed in his teachings.

Posted by Reutrider | Report as abusive

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. They cannot have it both ways. Either abandon your acceptance of government incentives and hire whomever you want or adhere to the government’s demands. This is the slippery slope most churches are reluctant to discuss. They freely accept tax exempt status until the government enters the sanctuary and asks for something in return. Many churches would rather pay the tax than have the government put its nose under the tent.

Posted by rossreller | Report as abusive

If you don’t give me tax breaks because I discriminate against some taxpayers based on their religious beliefs, you are violating my First Amendment right to freedom of religion. If this were a Muslim outfit, I wonder how many people would give that a second thought.

Posted by AlbertLeo | Report as abusive

Builders of the Ark believe that attendance and profits will be guaranteed because of the inexorable workings of Barnum’s Law in Kentucky.

Posted by purcelc | Report as abusive

So the State of Kentucky decided they could do business with people of Neo-Stone Age mentalities, who don’t believe they can evolve any further than where they presently are, and that dinosaur bones were embedded into stone by the devil to trick everyone into believing they really existed.

And they didn’t foresee this happening?

Posted by DeSwiss | Report as abusive

It appears that “Answers in Genesis” knows a lot about the bible but very little about operating in the secular world. It is simply illegal to discriminate in hiring based upon race, religion, sex, or age.

Posted by Mr.Fusion | Report as abusive

What is the rationale for the tax credits in the first place? Can I build a FSM theme park and get some public moolah, too?

Posted by Carbunicle | Report as abusive

It is a religious project. The government shouldn’t be funding it because of the establishment clause. Why are they getting state aid in the first place? For that matter, why ask people to sign a statement of belief? They could just give applicants a test of knowledge concerning Creationism, Noah, and the flood.

Posted by MassResident | Report as abusive

This is precious:

“Zovath, who is also co-founder of Answers in Genesis, said that if tax incentives for the project are withdrawn because it does not give written assurances the state now seeks, it would violate the organization’s First Amendment and state constitutional rights.”

Thank you so much to the 5 so-called “conservatives” on the Supreme Court. I expect to so many businesses will now start to consider themselves “churches” as well to gain the many benefits they are now missing out on. Welfare queens indeed.

Posted by mikef2112 | Report as abusive

No way the state should be giving $18,000,000 in tax breaks for a business venture whose purpose is to promote a single religious belief regardless of their hiring practices! A business whose raison detre is misinforming the public and actively reducing critical thinking skills, also.

Posted by KNT | Report as abusive