Ken Ham, on behalf of his Ark Encounters park, is following through with his threats -- he's suing the state of Kentucky, he says, for denying him the right to benefit from tax revenue while discriminating against non-Christians (and Christians who believe in evolution and an old Earth).
In a new press release, Ham lays out his claims. He believes he's the victim of religious discrimination -- because the state won't let him receive tax dollars for his Ark Encounters park while discriminating in hiring.
Ken Ham is the man behind Answers in Genesis, Kentucky's Creation Museum (which employs exhibits to teach children that man and dinosaurs lived at the same time), and the Ark Encounters theme park, which is underway a short distance from the Creation Museum. The park, Ham hopes, will help prove that Noah could, indeed, fit two of every type of animal on a functional wooden boat.
Ham's problems came about because of a clash between a state tax benefit he sought and his hiring practices. The program allows tourist attractions that generate a certain amount of tax revenue to receive a rebate of part of that revenue -- in other words, have some of their tax dollars returned. However, Ken Ham was denied access to the program because of discriminatory hiring practices that came to light.
Specifically, a person who applied to work at Ham's Ark Encounters park would be asked to sign a statement saying he shared Ham's Young Earth Christian faith. Americans United for Separation of Church and State contacted officials in Kentucky, noting that to grant Ham's project access to the tax-funded program would be to "compel taxpayers to support religious discrimination."
Though Kentucky state officials concurred, Ham disagreed, maintaining that by refusing to give him money to fund a project that discriminates on the basis of religion, the state of Kentucky was actually discriminating against him. Ham maintains that he and Ark Encounters are being persecuted for his Christian faith.
Now, Ham says, he's obligated to sue on behalf of Ark Encounters. He cites a recent 6th Circut Appeals Court decision that affirms the right of faith groups to make hiring decisions based on their beliefs. Indeed, MLive reports that, in the case of a woman fired by a religious school and church for going through a divorce, the Appeals Court did affirm exactly that right. However, the court didn't affirm any right to benefit from tax revenue while doing so.
Though Ken Ham continues to deny that any tax revenue would be used for the Ark Encounters park, there's no question that the refund or credit issued through the program would come out of the taxes owed to the state. Notably, Ark Encounters would not even qualify for the program unless it reaches a certain bar for income tax revenue generated -- and there's some question about that. There are two estimates of the attendance Ham's newest attraction can expect -- and the higher one comes from a man who co-authored a book with Ham, while the lower comes from a neutral party, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The Creation Museum has already resorted to attractions like zip lines to keep drawing attention. Is Ken Ham's Ark Encounters park already heading in the same direction?
[photo credit: Another Noah's Ark model]