Americans United Group Twisting Truth Once Again

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The anti-Christian organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), which at one point helped influence Kentucky’s previous governor to illegally stop our Ark Encounter from receiving a tourism sales tax rebate incentive, is once again twisting the truth.

AU Tries to Stifle Free Speech

This organization is known for trying to stifle religious free speech and restrict Christians in particular from their free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the US Constitution. In its ongoing discriminatory actions, AU has employed bullying techniques to get its way. Even though AU was successful at first in bullying Kentucky into denying Answers in Genesis (AiG) the tourism incentive, a federal judge ruled conclusively (and in great detail) in our favor. The lawsuit argued that the state had discriminated against AiG and undermined our First Amendment rights when it rejected the tourism tax incentive for the Ark Encounter. We pointed out that any tourism attraction that fulfills the requirements of the state can receive the tourism tax rebate incentive, and many have already, such as the Kentucky Speedway, Bourbon Distillery Museum, and more. This incentive has brought millions and millions of tourism dollars into Kentucky.

Now, filing a lawsuit against the state and the former governor is not something we did lightly. But for the sake of religious freedom in America and to protect our constitutionally guaranteed rights, we filed a lawsuit, exactly two years ago today. See “Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Today by AiG/Ark Encounter against Kentucky.”

In a blog posted earlier this month, AU was obviously still smarting over the fact that AiG eventually won the lawsuit against the State of Kentucky (under the previous governor) because, it stated,

What’s not acceptable is expecting taxpayers to prop up this nonsense—and that’s exactly what’s happening in Kentucky. Ham denies that he got state subsidies to build Ark Encounter, but he did. Under a Kentucky program, once a year, all of the 6 percent sales tax that Ark Encounter charged for things like tickets, food and souvenirs is returned to the park. So money that had been in the state treasury is given back to Ark Encounter. That’s a subsidy.1

Analyzing AU’s Statement

Well, today we see so much of the leftist media and bloggers twisting information, disseminating misinformation, and making outright lies. So let me analyze this statement from AU and outline the truth:

  1. “Ham denies that he got state subsidies to build Ark Encounter, but he did.”

    The Ark Encounter has not received one cent from the state to date. We are approved for a percentage rebate of sales tax generated only within the park (it’s performance based) and up to a maximum pre-approved amount over 10 years. We will probably receive our first rebate check by the end of 2017. The Ark Encounter was built by donations and bond issue—no state money was used. So yes, we deny that we “got state subsidies to build the Ark.” That is a demonstrably false charge, which state officials have even had to go to the media to correct. See “The Truth Revealed About the Ark Encounter Tourism Tax Incentive Rebate.”

  2. “What’s not acceptable is expecting taxpayers to prop up this nonsense.”

    The tourism tax incentive is only given to a tourist facility that will bring in significant dollars in net revenue for the state. Each application undergoes rigorous scrutiny, and outside consultants are used by the state (but paid for by the applicant) to evaluate whether the state will significantly benefit from the new tourist attraction. The Ark Encounter passed all those tests and has already brought in millions of dollars to the state since opening last July. In fact, because over 90 percent of guests who visit the Ark Encounter come from outside the state, new money is pouring into Kentucky. Hotel operators in the region have seen phenomenal occupancy rates, and tour operators are discovering that it’s hard to find enough hotel rooms for groups visiting the Ark this spring and summer. The rebate for the tourism tax incentive is a percentage rebate based on sales tax generated within the park only—which is a very small percentage of the overall incredible net gain to the state by having this facility operating in Kentucky and drawing so many tourists and their dollars.

    AU is located in Washington, DC. Of course, AU has done nothing to bring millions of dollars into the state of Kentucky as the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum have done. Actually, AU helped cause Kentucky’s treasury to lose money, because its interference in the state (as it encouraged Kentucky to fight the Ark project) contributed wasting the state’s resources as Kentucky incurred legal bills in the lawsuit.

  3. “Under a Kentucky program, once a year, all of the 6 percent sales tax that Ark Encounter charged for things like tickets, food and souvenirs is returned to the park. So money that had been in the state treasury is given back to Ark Encounter. That’s a subsidy.”

    Well, a percentage of this sales tax, up to a maximum approved by the state, will be rebated each year for ten years. Ark Encounter will not receive the first check probably until the end of 2017, about a year and a half after the Ark opened.

  4. “So money that had been in the state treasury is given back to Ark Encounter. That’s a subsidy.”

    No, it’s actually a rebate incentive, because the state benefits significantly by the Ark as it gains a net of millions of dollars, which it would not have seen if the tourist facility hadn’t been built in Kentucky as opposed to Indiana, which courted the Ark.

The Nature of the AU Organization

Now, what AU doesn’t state in its latest attack article that twists the truth is the nature of the AU organization. From AU’s own website:

Is AU tax-exempt?

Yes — Americans United is designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization; our Federal ID is #53-0184647. You may access a copy of our most recent IRS 990 form here.

Are my contributions to AU tax-deductible?

Yes . . . the entire amount of your annual giving if you opt not to receive these benefits — is deductible to the full extent of the law. Our Federal ID is #53-0184647.2

So money that would have been available for the government to receive won’t happen because people giving to AU will get a tax deduction. By AU’s own logic, it is being subsidized by the government! Also, 501(c)(3) organizations like AU receive other benefits, such as exemption from federal income tax; tax-deductible contributions; possible exemption from state income tax, sales tax, and employment taxes; reduced postal rates; exemption from federal unemployment tax; and tax-exempt financing.

Note the difference between AU’s non-profit standing and the Ark Encounter’s tourism tax rebate. The tax rebate is because new money is generated for Kentucky and resulting in the state receiving a net of millions of dollars, revenue it would not have been able to obtain otherwise. Furthermore, not only does a well-attended attraction bring tourism dollars into the state, it also generates thousands of new jobs. Kentucky and its citizens are benefiting from the state income tax collected from these new jobs, plus from the sales tax collected at businesses that are created in the region because of the Ark’s presence—money which will go towards funding state programs. Even with the rebate we receive, the net-gain for the state is enormous. Again: what is AU doing to generate such funds for Kentucky or any other state for that matter?

Now, Answers in Genesis, which operates the Ark and the Creation Museum, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum have been a boon for the State of Kentucky. Building the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, and taking advantage of a tourism tax incentive available to all tourist facilities that comply with the tourism act, has brought in (and will continue to bring in) millions of dollars to the state it would not previously have had. The sales tax rebate we receive constitutes a very small amount of this new generated income.

Americans United has also previously accused the Ark Encounter of discrimination in hiring because we employ people who agree with our statement of faith (as the federal judge in his ruling agreed we have the right to do). See “Victory for AiG/Ark Encounter in Federal Court.”

The major reason AU is so obsessed with AiG and the Ark Encounter is due to their intolerance of our Christian beliefs.

Ironically, AU requires those who apply for its Director of Marketing position to have a “commitment to church-state separation issues.”3 In other words AU discriminates in its own hiring! Of course, it is AU’s prerogative to hire people who are like-minded, just as it is our prerogative.

In recent times in the news, we have seen many examples of people who accuse others of intolerance and discrimination, and then the accusers themselves turn into some of the most intolerant and discriminatory people around! Really the major reason AU is so obsessed with AiG and the Ark Encounter (and Creation Museum) is due to their intolerance of our Christian beliefs; thus they actively discriminate against our ministry and others.

Now, all sorts of companies across America are courted by states and counties to bring their business to their area, and they are offered all sorts of incentives. In most instances, they are way above what is received in rebates offered through tax incentives.

Discrimination and Prejudice Against Our Christian Message

So what AU is doing in regard to the Ark Encounter comes down to discrimination and prejudice because of our Christian message. Ultimately, AU is trying to limit free speech. Its goal is obvious from the articles AU writes, like this one where the author states, “What’s not acceptable is expecting taxpayers to prop up this nonsense.” Just the use of the word “nonsense” illustrates AU’s emotional reaction to what we believe.

It’s simply not true and is utter nonsense that we are “expecting taxpayers to prop up this nonsense.” In actuality, the Ark Encounter, with the millions of tourism dollars it is bringing into the state, is helping to prop up taxpayers by lessening their tax burden!

Footnotes

  1. “Dragons And Dinosaurs: Don’t Force Ky. Taxpayers To Prop Up The ‘Ark Park’,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State (blog), February 2017, https://www.au.org/church-state/february-2017-church-state/editorial/dragons-and-dinosaurs-don-t-force-ky-taxpayers-to.
  2. “Donation FAQs,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State, https://www.au.org/donate/faqs.
  3. “Director of Marketing and Digital Engagement,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State, https://www.au.org/about/employment/director-of-marketing-and-digital-engagement.

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