As we file a religious discrimination lawsuit against the state of Kentucky concerning its handling of our future Noah's Ark attraction, we at Answers in Genesis anticipate that the vocal critics will continue in their efforts to obscure relevant facts.
Those efforts aside, the legal issue is actually quite simple: Can the state treat a religious organization differently than it does other groups that apply to participate in the Kentucky tourism incentive program?
We will show that the courts have already answered this question decisively, and that state officials have violated the rights of AiG by imposing extra conditions here. We expect to obtain a judgment that affirms these officials were wrong to demand that AiG waive its statutory rights to exercise a religious preference in hiring and its constitutional rights to share its religious message at the Ark theme park.
The state, as well as strident secular groups, can point to no specific law or statute that would deny a religious organization like AiG the right to hire staff members who agree with its mission.
We wish to dispel other highly circulated myths.
The biggest untruth is that state tax dollars will be used to build our life-size Noah's Ark in Grant County. To the contrary, we have applied for an incentive offered by the state that lures tourist attractions in order to boost the economy, create jobs and add money to the state treasury.
The incentive, now being denied by the state to the Ark after a preliminary approval, pertains to sales tax collected at the finished Ark. If the completed Ark draws large crowds, and hence major tourism dollars, then some of the state sales tax collected (on food, tickets, etc.) could be refunded up to a limit.
Thus, no unwilling taxpayers will see their state tax dollars used to build the Ark. In fact, with the state seeing additional revenue gained through sales taxes collected at the Ark and related businesses, there will be more money for state programs to benefit citizens. It's a proverbial "win-win" scenario.
Another myth is that the Ark Encounter should not receive the future sales tax rebate because it is allegedly a for-profit business. It is not. AiG's non-profit subsidiary, Crosswater Canyon, owns the Ark and it has been approved by the IRS as a non-profit.
The state is demanding that in order for the Ark to benefit from the tourism incentive (otherwise available to other qualifying parties), we will have to surrender the hiring rights we already possess under the law and will not be allowed to share our Christian viewpoint at our park.
This form of censorship imposes a huge burden on the Ark Encounter's freedom of religion. It smacks of overt religious discrimination.
We have assured state officials many times that Ark Encounter will follow all applicable federal and state laws in operating our theme park — and the state must as well.
Regarding the content of the Ark's exhibits, we agree with the conclusion of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear who, when asked during a 2010 press conference if a theme park based on Noah's Ark would pass constitutional muster, stated: "The law does not allow us to discriminate."
Today, however, the governor is doing just that.
Churches and religious organizations will be carefully watching this case, for they will wonder if they may also be threatened by some government entity concerning their hiring and expressions of faith.
It is time to take a stand now before the religious liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are chipped away further, to the future detriment of all religious groups and churches.