Ken Ham, president of a Christian ministry and the Creation Museum got millions in tax-break assurances from Kentucky, but now the State is shocked that he plans to discriminate based on religion. Will those tax breaks disappear?
Ken Ham recently made headlines when he debated evolution with Bill Nye, "the science guy," at Ham's Creation Museum in Kentucky. Depending on your point of view, Nye won, or Ham won. But in another sense, Ham was the winner because Nye has been much more of a household name, for decades, than Ham.
Born in Australia in 1951, Ham is a "young earth creationist" who believes the earth is just 6000 years old and everything anyone needs to know can be learned from the Bible -- actual science, he insists, is misleading and wrong. He is the president of Answers in Genesis, a Christian Ministry that runs his Creation Museum, and soon -- or, soon he had hoped -- Ark Encounter, a Noah's Ark museum to be based in Kentucky, too.
But as The New Civil Rights Movement reported this summer, Ham's detractors found that the Ark Encounter, unlike the Creation Museum, isn't a Christian ministry, and that's creating a legal employment rights problem for Ham.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has already approved millions in tax breaks. It first gave Ham $173 million in tax breaks, which he ultimately declined because he was having funding problems. Then, he asked for $73 million. Finally, the State approved $18 million. Until now.
"The Commonwealth doesn't believe that Ark Encounter, LLC will be complying with state and Federal law in its hiring practices," Bob Stewart, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, wrote to an Ark Encounter attorney, according to the Courier-Journal.
Stewart wrote that "serious concerns" were raised by a job posting for an Ark Encounter position that required applicants to provide salvation testimony, a creation belief statement, and agreement with the "Statement of Faith" of Ark Encounter's parent organization, Answers in Genesis.
Indeed, as The New Civil Rights Movement reported, Daniel Phelps, the president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society and vice president of Kentuckians for Science Education wrote an op-ed in which he details the issue. "On the day the tax incentives were recommended, the Answers in Genesis website had a help-wanted advertisement," Phelps explained.
The job description included this statement: "Our work at Ark Encounter is not just a job, it is also a ministry. Our employees work together as a team to serve each other to produce the best solutions for our design requirements. Our purpose through the Ark Encounter is to serve and glorify the Lord with our God-given talents with the goal of edifying believers and evangelizing the lost."
Ham claims that the Ark museum will be run separately and differently from the Creation Museum.
But job postings at Answers in Genesis include this statement: "All job applicants for the non-profit ministry of AiG/Creation Museum need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation, and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG Statement of Faith."
The AiG Statement of Faith claims "it is imperative that all persons employed by the ministry in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, should abide by and agree to our Statement of Faith, to include the statement on marriage and sexuality, and conduct themselves accordingly."
It also requires all employees to believe and support "the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge," and the "66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science."
And that's just for starters.
Meanwhile, after several warnings in the media, the State of Kentucky is finally getting the message.
"The Commonwealth does not provide incentives to any company that discriminates on the basis of religion and we will not make any exception for Ark Encounter, LLC," Tourism secretary Bob Stewart wrote. "The Commonwealth must have the express written assurance from Ark Encounter, LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring."
One voice has been conspicuously absent from the debate over Ark Encounter's intolerance: that of Christian conservatives. They have spent the past several years loudly and unceasingly condemning what they view as discrimination on the basis of religion. An anti-gay CEO voluntarily resigns from a private corporation following public pressure? Religious discrimination. An anti-gay Christian college group loses state funding for refusing to accept those who don't follow its creed? Religious discrimination. A financial firm sends out a diversity survey to its employees that mentions sexual orientation? Religious discrimination. Some conservatives have even argued that the marriage equality movement turned America into a "totalitarian system" where animosity toward religion is mandatory.
Yet in none of these examples did any actual religious discrimination occur. No employers have fired their employees for holding anti-gay religious beliefs; no colleges have expelled students for finding homosexuality immoral. Meanwhile, a shockingly brazen form of religious discrimination is occurring in Kentucky right now, as Ark Encounter asserts its right to discriminate against people who are not young-Earth creationists while receiving state funds.
The government shouldn't be in the business of religion, and that includes financing religious projects -- especially anti-science ones.
Image via Ark Encounter
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