Ark Encounter in the Headlines Again!

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The Ark Encounter, to feature a life-size Noah’s Ark that is well underway in Williamstown, Kentucky (and south of Cincinnati, Ohio), is on the front pages again! I’m sure many of you have read one or more recent news reports that present various, often confusing theories about the Kentucky tourism tax refund program that the Ark Encounter has applied for.

One of the most humorous articles had this headline:

  • “Noah’s Ark Theme Park Loses $18 Million in Tax Breaks Unless They Hire Atheists”

Other headlines included:

  • “Ark Encounter Job Listing Requiring ‘Statement Of Faith’ Lands Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark In Hot Water”
  • “Kentucky warns Noah's Ark theme park over hiring practices”

Numerous other news stories have been published across the nation, and atheist bloggers have become giddy with excitement about the rumor that the construction of the Ark project may somehow be in jeopardy!

So What’s This Hubbub All About?

This vehemently anti-Christian, anti-creationist group seems to be obsessed with trying to stop Answers in Genesis.

Well, it seems the origin of the controversy can be traced to the paranoia of the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). This vehemently anti-Christian, anti-creationist group seems to be obsessed with trying to stop Answers in Genesis from exercising its rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion because of the biblical message we proclaim.

It is no secret that Answers in Genesis has been working on the Ark Encounter project for a number of years. In the process, AiG has employed a number of people in the various aspects of its design and planning. It is also no secret that AiG (just like AU and groups like American Atheists) exercises its legal rights to employ people who have beliefs that fit with the organization. The practice is as common as it is logical. 

Can you imagine AU, for example, being forced to employ someone who doesn’t believe in its interpretation of the so-called  “separation of church and state”? Or can you imagine the American Atheists being compelled to employ a CEO who is a Bible-believing creationist like me? Of course not! Those groups are very selective in their hiring practices—and have the freedom to do so under federal and state laws.

When AU recently saw a job opening listed on the AiG website for a specialist to work on the Ark Encounter project, they went ballistic. What was their complaint? The atheists were beside themselves that the AiG job posting listed Christian belief as a qualification for the job. It didn’t seem to matter a bit to the AU critics that their hypocrisy was so glaring, or that federal and state statues specifically authorize religious organizations to hire people who agree with their religious points of view.

The Ark Encounter has confirmed over and over to the state and media that it will carefully adhere to all applicable federal and state laws in hiring.

By the way, a recent article on the AU website states, “That job post [for a CAD position] has since been removed.”1 By stating this in the context of their article, there is certainly an implication we were pressured to remove it. Now AU may be surprised at this, but when AiG fills a job vacancy, we then take the job posting down!  If the job had not been filled, the posting would be still up!

Now, AU hypocrites are going even further and are trying to pressure Kentucky state officials to withdraw their support of the Ark Encounter (and thus lose out on the extraordinary economic development it will bring to Kentucky). You see, to ensure that all of that economic development was brought to the state and not located elsewhere, a state tourism official encouraged AiG to reapply for its successful tax rebate incentives program. The program, which has been used in recent years to lure other theme parks, museums, and similar tourist projects to Kentucky, allows the developers of such a project—if it is successful—to later recoup some of the new tax dollars it generates and pays to the state.  

Just because the Ark Encounter happens to be a Christian project does not mean it cannot participate in the program just like every other project has. If the state did otherwise, that would amount to blatantly unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment.   

The Ark Encounter has confirmed over and over to the state and media that it will carefully adhere to all applicable federal and state laws in hiring. And we certainly hope and expect that for its part, state officials will follow the law as well. Part of that obligation is to respect the clearly established rights of our religious organization. 

No Taxpayer Dollars Will Build the Ark

In spite of the atheists’ unfounded claims, not a penny of tax dollars is being used to build the life-size Noah’s Ark! The tax rebate incentive only applies to a percentage of sales tax generated within the park after it’s opened and if and when it meets certain guidelines. This is the same incentive a number of companies have already received—and the taxes they generate bring net dollars into the state above the amount of the incentives received!

The Ark Encounter is currently under construction, and no doubt will begin employing people once construction gets to a certain stage.

The funny thing about all of this hubbub is that there really is no story here at all. You see, the Ark Encounter has not yet even considered hiring anyone, or even drafted its hiring policies or employee handbooks. The Ark Encounter is currently under construction, and no doubt will begin employing people once construction gets to a certain stage.

It’s sad to see some media and bloggers intentionally spread false information that the Ark project is somehow pulling funding away from public education or other state programs when in fact the finished Ark will bring new money into the Kentucky treasury! It’s really amazing (though not surprising) to see the lengths the opposition will go to as they try to denigrate a project because it has a Christian message in the hope of bringing the project down.

For instance, in its ongoing propaganda campaign against the Ark, AU continues to suggest (falsely) that AiG “doesn’t have to take Kentucky’s $18 million and it can build the ark itself.”1 This implies we are using a tax incentive to build the Ark. But as explained above, the tax incentive is a rebate after the project is built and operational.

Think about it—groups like the AU would rather Kentucky not have millions of dollars in additional revenue to fund programs to benefit its citizens than see a Christian message proclaimed.

Ultimately, AU and groups like them want freedom from Christianity, not freedom of religion! Thankfully, under our Constitution, such oppressive ideas will never float.

Keep up to date with the Ark project at arkencounter.com.

Footnotes

  1. Simon Brown, “Constitutional Confusion: Ky. ‘Ark Park’ Claims First Amendment Right To Taxpayer Assistance,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State, accessed October 11, 2014, https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/constitutional-confusion-ky-ark-park-claims-first-amendment-right-to.

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