US: No tax breaks for Creationist theme park that won’t hire gays

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A Creationist theme park in Kentucky will not be getting tax breaks – as it refuses to hire gay people or non-Christians.

The fundamentalist Christian Ark Encounter park – which will contain reproductions of Biblical stories – had been approved for $18 million in tax incentives from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority earlier this year.

However, the organisation, headed by Creationist Ken Ham, will only hire people if they sign a ‘statement of faith’ banning homosexual conduct.

In addition to the statement of faith, employees also have to sign a ‘creation statement’ agreeing that God created the world 6000 years ago, banning anyone who does not confirm to fundamentalist ideology from applying.

However, Bob Stewart, the Cabinet Secretary for the Kentucky Tourism Arts & Heritage board, confirmed this week that the project will receive no tax incentives, because of the discriminatory practices.

According to Insider Louisville, he wrote to Ark Encounter’s attorney: “As you know, since the filing of the original incentive application in 2010, we have strongly supported this project, believing it to be a tourism attraction based on biblical themes that would create significant jobs for the community.

“However, based on various postings on the Answers in Genesis (AIG) and Ark Encounter websites, reports from Ark Encounter investor meetings and our correspondence, it is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourism attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the Commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives.

“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry.

“However, state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the Separation of Church and State provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear — who had previously publicly backed the project – told the newspaper: “We expect any entity that accepts state incentives not to discriminate on any basis in hiring.

“While the leaders of Ark Encounter had previously agreed not to discriminate in hiring based on religion, they now refuse to make that commitment and it has become apparent that they do intend to use religious beliefs as a litmus test for hiring decisions.

“For that reason, we cannot proceed with the tourism incentive application for the Ark Encounter project.

“This does not mean the project will not be built – on the contrary, Ark Encounter has said publicly that the project will be built regardless of availability of state incentives.

“I have no doubt that the Ark Encounter will be a successful attraction, drawing visitors and creating jobs, much like the Creation Museum.”