Thursday, October 09, 2014

Kentucky Says Noah's Ark Mustn't Discriminate

Kentucky officials have warned the owners of a new full-sized Noah's Ark in Grant County that if they want the same tax treatment as every other employer in the state, employment opportunities must be open to atheists and everyone else who would criticize the Christian mission of the theme park.
"We're hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn't go further than this."
-- Mike Zovath, Executive President, Ark Encounter

-- From "State attaches conditions for tax incentives for Noah's Ark Park" by The Associated Press 10/8/14

Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart said in a letter the state would not approve tax incentives for the Ark Encounter based on an online job posting that required applicants to provide a salvation testimony and a statement on marriage and sexuality.

Ark Encounter attorney James Parsons replied that the posting was for a job with the company that owns the park and said the Ark Encounter does not have hiring policies yet. He said the park would follow all state and federal laws.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Kentucky warns Noah's Ark theme park over hiring practices" by Steve Bittenbender (Reuters) 10/8/14

The developer of a Noah's Ark-based theme park in Kentucky said on Wednesday he would fight for his religious rights after state officials warned he could lose millions in potential tax credits if he hires only people who believe in the biblical flood.

Ark Encounter, which is slated to open in 2016 in Williamston, Kentucky, is not hiring anyone yet, but its parent company Answers in Genesis asks employees to sign a faith statement including a belief in creationism and the flood.

[Mike] Zovath, who is also co-founder of Answers in Genesis, said that if tax incentives for the project are withdrawn because it does not give written assurances the state now seeks, it would violate the organization's First Amendment and state constitutional rights.

The tourism tax credit is potentially worth more than $18 million over a 10-year period.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Ark park tax incentives in limbo over hiring" by Tom Loftus, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY) 10/7/14

"We're still in the negotiation with the state, saying why are you requiring us to do something you don't require other applicants to do? And why are you requiring us to give up our religious freedom and our religious rights to comply with an additional requirement that isn't in the state Tourism Act?" Zovath said.

In 2011 [Ark Encounter] won final approval of the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority for its entire $172.5 million project. But because of financing problems, it withdrew that application and returned this year seeking approval of a $73 million first phase that would include the park's main feature — a 510-foot wooden ark.

On July 29 the authority gave preliminary approval for the project — the first of two steps allowing the park to participate in a program that would let it keep 25 percent of the sales tax the tourist attraction would collect for 10 years. In this case, these tax rebates would be as much as $18.25 million.

In August, The Courier-Journal first reported concerns raised by the Washington-based Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and others over potential hiring practices. American United, in a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear and members of the authority, said it was alarmed by a job posting on the Answers in Genesis website for a designer's job on its Ark Encounter project.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.