Answers in Genesis, the organization behind the infamous Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, plans to open a Noah's Ark theme park. Ark Encounter, scheduled to open in Williamstown, Kentucky in summer 2016, will include a full-scale replica of Noah's ark as described in Genesis 6. However, when an Ark Encounter job posting required applicants to provide a "salvation testimony" and affirm a statement of faith, Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged Kentucky's Tourism Development Finance Authority to deny state tax subsidies to the project.
The Tourism Authority agreed. Earlier this week, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that the theme part planned will not receive roughly $18 million in state tax incentives. Ark Encounter was denied the tax incentives over concerns that awarding such incentives would violate church-state separation, the article explains. Americans United applauded the decision.
According to the Washington Post, Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet sent a letter to Answers in Genesis arguing that the Noah's Ark park resembled a ministry rather than a tourist attraction, and that its hiring practices failed to meet state requirements for tax incentives.
Answers in Genesis may challenge the decision in court, according to the Associated Press. In a video statement, Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham offered his side of the issue, urging Christian groups to take note of Kentucky's decision. (Hat tip to Friendly Atheist.)
"This employment issue is a matter of great importance not only to AIG, but to every Christian organization, to every church that doesn't want to give in to demands from the government to hire non-Christians. In fact, every religious organization should be worried at what the state of Kentucky is trying to do."What is so confusing about this? Answers in Genesis is a religious ministry. Ark Encounter promotes religion -- in this case, a literal interpretation of the Great Flood story -- and hires only employees who embrace a particular interpretation of Christianity. If Kentucky were to offer tax incentives to Ark Encounter, it would raise problems for church-state separation. Whether Answers in Genesis takes this decision lying down remains to be seen.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Think Progress: Noah’s Ark Loses $18 Million In Tax Breaks
Danthropology: Ken Ham continues to lie about the Ark Encounters employment discrimination
Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Ky. Officials Reject ‘Ark Park’s’ Request For $18 Million Tax Rebate