Answers in Genesis CEO and President Ken Ham has claimed that the new conditions set out by the state of Kentucky for the Ark Encounter project that prohibit religious preference in hiring are illegal. He also criticized media coverage that claimed that his organization has asked Kentucky for money to build the project.
"The state's new conditions are clearly illegal. We can cite both federal and state laws that permit religious preference in hiring, like the 1964 civil rights act. That's why atheist groups can and do discriminate in their hiring," Ham said in a video message.
He added that Kentucky had first approved an incentive for AiG's plans to build a life-size replica of Noah's Ark, but following pressure from atheist groups, the state added conditions stating that AiG cannot show religious preference in its hiring.
"The state granted its preliminary approval for the incentive. Only after the atheist groups objected and publicly attacked the state's preliminary approval, did the state renege on its commitment."
Media reports last week pointed out that Kentucky had retracted an $18 million in tax incentives offer for the Ark Encounter Project, but Ham, who is also the President and CEO of the Creation Museum, warned that there is a lot of "bogus" information being spread around.
"We were not asking the state for any money to build the Ark Encounter," Ham said.
"AIG had reapplied for a possible refund of sales tax that would be collected at the finished Ark," he clarified.
"If the Ark would see excellent attendance, and some of the sales tax paid by guests who were voluntarily visiting could be refunded, up to a maximum. It's actually an excellent incentive offered to any tourist attraction thinking of locating in Kentucky."
The AiG president added that the tax rebate would have been used to offset some of the development costs over time.
Ham explained in the video that state officials were fully aware from the beginning that AiG was looking to defend its rights as a religious organization. He noted that his group made clear that along with its subsidiary Crosswater Canyon, it has sole ownership over the Ark project.
"AIG as a religious organization has the legal right to hire people who believe in our Christian faith," Ham maintained.
He added that Kentucky's decision to impose hiring conditions on the project should be disconcerting for all religious organizations in the U.S. seeking to safeguard their rights.