Kentucky voices

Non-Christians need not apply

August 17, 2014 

  • Daniel Phelps is a geologist, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society and vice president of Kentuckians for Science Education.

The Ark Encounter is in the process of reapplying for a state tax incentive of more than $18 million.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval to the incentives with support from Gov. Steve Beshear.

Ark Encounter is run by Answers in Genesis and is clear about its religious basis. According to that organization, the Earth is only approximately 6,000 years old, Noah's flood was in 2350 B.C., and there were dinosaurs on the ark (some of which were fire-breathing dragons).

These are the religious views of some, but they are in profound conflict with scientific knowledge, which is well respected by many Americans of faith. On the day the tax incentives were recommended, the Answers in Genesis website had a help-wanted advertisement.

The job description included this statement: "Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."

When Ark Encounter was originally approved for much larger tax incentives they were required not to discriminate in hiring.

However, it is apparent that Ark Encounter is likely to discriminate against non-Christians. Moreover, Catholics, mainstream Protestant Christians and some conservative Christians who have different doctrinal beliefs are also unlikely to be hired.

The ad has specific religious requirements for employment. These include a salvation testimony, a "creation belief statement" and a requirement that applicants agree with the organization's "statement of faith." This required statement includes articles that imply that fundamentalist Christianity is the only acceptable religion and that denigrate non-Christians non-fundamentalist Christians, and homosexuals (regardless of their theological views).

The governor, tourism secretary, and various Grant County officials claim the granting of tax incentives is about jobs for the area.

However, even in such a religiously conservative area as Grant County and Williamstown, many people will not be eligible for employment. I suspect that even Beshear would not be eligible for a minimum-wage position selling corn dogs.

Another issue that has not been widely reported is that Answers in Genesis recently received an Allosaurus dinosaur skeleton that they value at $1 million from Michael Peroutka.

Until recently Peroutka was on the board of directors of the League of the South, a white supremacist neo-Confederate organization.

The League of the South has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Answers in Genesis often claims it is anti-racist, but such a connection with white supremacists is indeed disturbing.

The fact that Kentucky is considering granting a tax incentive to a group that has a policy of religious discrimination in hiring is unacceptable.

The tax incentive, along with the city tax breaks, and the parcel of land sold to the project at a discount by Williamstown, plus $200,000 cash given by the Grant County Economic Development Commission is clearly a case of government entanglement with religion.

I have expressed these concerns to Kentucky Tourism Cabinet Secretary Rob Stewart and have only received a form reply letter that did not address them. I ask the tourism cabinet not to violate civil rights laws and the separation of church and state.

Do not bring dishonor upon Kentucky by granting Ark Encounter $18 million, or any amount, in tax incentives.

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