On January 25, a federal court ruled that it was unconstitutional for Kentucky to exclude Answers in Genesis from participating in tourism benefits simply because of its religious viewpoint. The judge has ordered the state to move forward in processing AiG’s application for tax rebate incentives, which will become effective after the Ark Encounter theme park opens and is operating. The state’s new governor, Matt Bevin, unlike his predecessor, fully supports the Ark project and will not appeal the decision.
In his decision, Judge Greg Van Tatenhove of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky also upheld AiG’s right to religious preferences in its hiring. The ruling in favor of AiG will now prohibit the state from excluding the Ark Encounter and other applicants simply because they are religious in nature.
“I rejoice in the court’s decision today,” said Ken Ham, AiG president. “The law is crystal clear that the state cannot discriminate against a Christian group simply because of its viewpoint, but that is precisely what happened here. The decision today is a victory for the free exercise of religion in this country.”
“This ruling is an important precedent,” said Mike Johnson, chief counsel of the public interest law firm, Freedom Guard, who argued the case for AiG. “The court has affirmed a longstanding principle that the Constitution does not permit a state to show hostility towards religion.”
Ham noted the AiG case involved more than just a tax rebate: “We are standing up for all religious groups and churches that want to maintain their free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. Regarding hiring practices, the judge noted that a religious organization is excluded from the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because of Title VII of that Act. The judge merely upheld the law.”