Constitutional Confusion: Ky. ‘Ark Park’ Claims First Amendment Right to Taxpayer Assistance
Thanks to a complaint from Americans United, a proposed theme park run by a fundamentalist Christian ministry is in danger of losing tax incentives preliminarily approved by misguided Kentucky officials. Now, with so much at stake, that ministry is going on the offensive - claiming it has a “religious liberty” right to taxpayer subsidies!
As we detailed earlier this week, Ark Encounter, a proposed theme park featuring a 510-foot replica of Noah’s Ark, is in danger of losing $18 million in tax incentives thanks to discriminatory hiring practices by Answers in Genesis (AiG), the Ark Park’s parent organization.
To recap: In August, AU informed the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority and Gov. Steve Beshear (D) that AiG had posted online an opening for a computer-assisted design technician to work at Ark Encounter. That job post has since been removed, but in the August description, AiG said applicants must submit a “[c]reation belief statement,” as well as “[c]onfirmation of [their] agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.”
That “statement of faith” required potential AiG employees to affirm their belief 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. Anyone who doesn’t agree with those statements won’t be considered for the job.
As a result, Bob Stewart, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, told AiG that the Ark Park’s hiring practices are a major problem and the $18 million deal is dead without a promise from Ark Encounter ensuring fair hiring will take place.
AiG is none too pleased about this development. But given that a project even AiG admits is “evangelistic” should not be eligible for any sort of taxpayer assistance anyway, AiG doesn’t exactly have a legally sound argument for why it should receive a generous tax break from the state. So AiG is trying a desperate tactic - the ministry claims it has a First Amendment right to a tax break.