Answers in Genesis to file discrimination suit against state for denying participation in tax rebate program

Ken ham and Mike JOhnson discuss lawsuit against the state of Kentucky. (Photo provided)
Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham, left, and attorney Mike Johnson appear in an online video released today.

Staff report

Answers in Genesis, developer of the Ark Encounter theme park in Northern Kentucky, confirmed today it is filing a federal lawsuit against state officials for denying the park participation in the state’s tax rebate incentive program.

“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” said AiG president Ken Ham. “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 towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

In an interview with the NKyTribune, Ham said the lawsuit is not just about a tax relief rebate.

“This really involves freedom of religion, free exercise of religion and freedom of speech,” Ham said. “We’ll be filing the lawsuit this week, but we announced before the filing because there has been so much misinformation out there from the seculars. We believe that it is this sort of pressure and misinformation that has caused the State of Kentucky to take this stance. We’re sad that it has come to this.”

Answers in Genesis, a 30-year-old creationist ministry, originally announced the theme park in December 2010 and broke ground last year. It filed for a state tax incentive program that would have allowed it to keep a quarter of the sales tax it collected for 10 years.

Last July the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave its preliminary authorization for the park to receive tax breaks, contingent on the group’s promise it would not discriminate on the basis of religion.

The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in December that AIG’s hiring policies did not meet state requirements for the up to $18 million in tax breaks. The park’s mission, the agency said, had become more a ministry than a tourist attraction and its hiring practices discriminated on the basis of religion.

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote, according to reports in the Louisville Courier-Journal. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

In his own statement, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) said he worried the park would use a “litmus test” for hiring staff.

AIG attorney James Parsons said at the time in response to the governor’s remarks that imposing a requirement that the park conduct its hiring without considering religion “will amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”

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