Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis group is continuing its lawsuit against the state of Kentucky, accusing it of violating First Amendment religious freedom rights by denying its Ark Encounter project participation in the state tax incentive program because of its insistence on religious preference in hiring workers. The state is arguing, however, that the Noah's ark theme park would be an evangelism tool.
The Associated Press reported that the AiG's lawsuit is hoping to force Kentucky to allow it back in the tourism incentive program, which could be worth close to $18 million.
Lawyers for the Creationist ministry argued on Wednesday that the group should not be denied participation just because it wants to hire Christian workers for the project, which is set to be completed in 2016.
Kentucky tourism officials positioned, however, that the 510-foot wooden ark is going to be used as an evangelism tool, and therefore should not receive tax dollars.
Ham, who is also the CEO and President of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, has argued that prohibiting religious preference in hiring workers is against the law.
"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," he stated back in December.
He has further explained that the project is intended to share "the truth of God's Word with visitors at the Ark concerning the historicity of Noah's Ark, the Genesis Flood, and other authentic accounts of history revealed in the Scriptures, including the account of redemption weaved throughout the Bible."
The Americans United for Separation of Church and State has put pressure on Kentucky to continue denying the Ark Encounter participation in the tax incentive program, arguing that it wants to "prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to unconstitutionally finance a religious ministry."
Two Baptist pastors have backed the AU as intervenors, with Christopher M. Caldwell of Broadway Baptist Church stating in May: "The tax rebates sought for Ark Encounter would effectively compel me, as a Kentucky taxpayer, to subsidize a religious ministry against my will."
Ham has insisted, however, that AiG is not seeking any kind of government grant for the project.
"Absolutely no unwilling taxpayers will see a single penny of their tax dollars go toward the Ark Encounter. The tax incentive program refunds a portion of the sales tax collected from those who voluntarily chose to buy a ticket to tour the Ark Encounter," Ham said back then.
"It is completely inconsequential that these four intervenors are taxpaying residents of Kentucky, unless they chose to visit the Ark once it opens and pay sales tax on their tickets. If they don't choose to visit, none of their money will be used in any way to subsidize the Ark Encounter. They will not be compelled to 'subsidize a religious ministry against [their] will.'"