Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is going after AiG’s life-size Noah’s Ark again. This time they have lodged a motion in federal court to intervene in regard to our lawsuit with the State of Kentucky over a denial of the Ark project participating in a tourism tax incentive program. Its intervenors “are four Kentucky taxpayers who oppose the use of their tax dollars to promote religion” and each person “pays taxes, including sales and income taxes, to the Commonwealth.”
According to the Intervenors’ Motion to Dismiss, two of the four intervenors are stated to be “ordained Christian ministers.” For instance, one of them is Christopher M. Caldwell who states, “I am a minister ordained in the Baptist Faith and I serve as pastor at Broadway Baptist Church.”
Pastor Caldwell went on to declare the following: “The tax rebates sought for Ark Encounter would effectively compel me, as a Kentucky taxpayer, to subsidize a religious ministry against my will.” This same statement is made by three others, including Paul Simmons on faculty at the University of Louisville, a “minister ordained in the Baptist faith.” He states he has “served as pastor and interim pastor at a number of churches in Kentucky.”
AU is guilty of helping to perpetuate this myth that money is coming out of the state treasury to build the Ark.
Americans United for Separation for Church and State knows that no one will be compelled “to subsidize a religious ministry against … [their] will.” And no one is compelling people to visit the Ark Encounter. Moreover, contrary to popular—but wrong—opinion, the tax incentive is not some kind of government grant to help Answers in Genesis construct the Ark Encounter. AU is guilty of helping to perpetuate this myth that money is coming out of the state treasury to build the Ark. In its motion to dismiss our lawsuit, AU makes it seem as if the proposed tax incentives would be akin to a government grant, but that is a complete misrepresentation of the actual tax incentive, which would be a rebate of a percentage of sales tax from ticket sales collected from those who voluntarily visit the Ark Encounter. And the tax rebate (of sales tax revenues generated by the project itself) would not begin to be rebated until after Ark Encounter has been operational for one year, and then only a percentage up to an approved maximum over ten years. Absolutely no unwilling taxpayers will see their money be used to build the Ark Encounter!
Now, AU really knows all this, so why would it have these Kentucky citizens join them to declare something in a legal filing that is totally untrue? Well, from what I’ve seen over the years, I suggest AU engages in such tactics for fundraising purposes. For April, AiG and I are its “villains of the month,” and so they want supporters to send them money so they can continue to attempt to stop those pesky Christians from their free exercise of religion.
Interestingly, AU itself is a 501(c)(3) organization that receives a number of tax benefits from the government because of its nonprofit status!
Our attorneys will obviously file an opposition to the intervention, but this motion by Ark opponents illustrates their desperate efforts to undermine our project. They have a fear of the strategic ministries of AiG and perhaps even a grudging respect of what AiG has accomplished over the years (as God has blessed us).
AU is the same group that put pressure on the State of Kentucky to deny our Ark Encounter the tax incentives that are equally available to any group that meets certain criteria, all of which Ark Encounter meet. The state bowed to these pressures and the Governor and Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet decided to deny Ark Encounter participation in the sales tax rebate program. The state’s action was clearly religious discrimination, which is increasingly on the rise in America. In response to the unconstitutional actions of the state, AiG/Ark Encounter filed a religious viewpoint discrimination lawsuit against the State of Kentucky in December. You can learn more (and watch a video) about why this lawsuit was necessary and about the unlawful actions of Kentucky here.
In a press release AU states, “in a motion to intervene and a proposed motion to dismiss the lawsuit, filed last night in a federal district court, Americans United says it wants to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to unconstitutionally finance a religious ministry.”
The motion to intervene, if successful, would allow AU to get involved in the lawsuit because they would be representing the four intervenors who oppose Ark Encounter receiving the sales tax rebate.
No unwilling taxpayers will see a single penny of their tax dollars go towards building the Ark.
The very wording of the intervenors’ motion repeats or implies the tired old myth (which has been soundly refuted on multiple occasions) that taxpayers’ money will be used to build the Ark. Again, this is simply not true and is a blatant (and very likely intentional) misrepresentation on the part of AU. No unwilling taxpayers will see a single penny of their tax dollars go towards building the Ark. As I wrote earlier but bears repeating, the tax incentive program refunds a portion of the sales tax collected from those who voluntarily chose to buy a ticket and visit Ark Encounter after it opens. It is completely inconsequential that these four intervenors are taxpaying residents of Kentucky because, unless they chose to visit the Ark once it opens, none of their money will be used in any way to subsidize the Ark Encounter. In no way will they be compelled to “subsidize a religious ministry against [their] will.”
It appears that Americans United has filed this motion to intervene simply because it wants to get involved in the lawsuit. The AU leadership despises Answers in Genesis, Ark Encounter, and what we stand for—the authority of God’s Word from the very beginning and the gospel of Jesus Christ. For years, AU has opposed the Ark Encounter.
The repeated attacks against the Ark Encounter from different secular groups, much of the media, and the state of Kentucky highlight that this matter is not simply an earthly battle. Just like when the Creation Museum was being proposed and construction began, AiG has been facing a battle “not … against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Please pray earnestly for AiG as we go forward with our lawsuit and with construction at the Ark Encounter property.
I have a message for AU. I’m reminded of what Gamaliel said to the people about the work of the apostles:
But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God. (Acts 5:39)
I certainly believe the Ark Encounter is a work of the Lord—and I certainly believe that groups like AU cannot overthrow this project that God has raised up for this time.