One of our clandestine operatives has given us some breaking news. He’s been working full time investigating the Ark Encounter project planned by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the Australian entrepreneur who has become the ayatollah of Appalachia, famed for his creationist ministry, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum.
Our operative has been sending us megabytes of information, but it’s all been hush-hush until now, when we were informed of this article in the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky (not far from ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum). Their headline is: Ark Park hiring issue jeopardizes tax incentives. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Tax incentives for the Noah’s Ark theme park in Northern Kentucky are in jeopardy over the state’s concern about possible religious discrimination in hiring, records obtained by The Courier-Journal show.
What tax incentives? We wrote about their preliminary approval several weeks ago: Joy to the World — The Ark Is Approved, where we quoted a news article that said:
A state tourism board gave preliminary approval on Tuesday for up to $18 million in tax rebates for a proposed full-sized replica of the massive ark as described in the book of Genesis. … If the rebates are approved, the project’s owners – Crosswater canyon, a nonprofit subsidiary of Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis ministry – would receive up to 25 percent of the $73 million anticipated cost of the project. The owners would get that money over 10 years only after the ark is built and open to the public.
But now that pot of gold may not materialize. According to the Courier-Journal:
“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, said in an Aug. 27 letter to an Ark Encounter attorney. 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.
Wow — “serious concerns.” The state officials appear to be waking up. Let’s read on:
“Therefore, we are not prepared to move forward with consideration of the application for final approval without the assurance of Ark Encounter, LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring,” Stewart wrote.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! What’s ol’ Hambo gonna do now? Don’t worry, dear reader, Hambo’s been aware of this. He’s battled the Devil before, and he’s not giving up. The news story continues:
James Parsons, a Covington attorney representing Ark Encounter, responded to Stewart saying that the job posting that triggered Stewart’s concern was not for Ark Encounter, but Answers in Genesis.
Oh — it’s only the parent company that practices religious discrimination. Not the Ark attraction itself. That’s being kept pure. Here’s more:
Parsons wrote that Ark Encounter stands by its longstanding commitment to “comply with all applicable federal and state laws” on hiring and said that Stewart was adding a new requirement to Ark Encounter’s application for tax incentives.
Oh yeah — Ark Encounter is eager to hire Darwinists and other abominable wretches. Sure. They’ll be all over the place, scoffing at the whole thing while they collect admission fees from Hambo’s drooling customers. Right! Is the state impressed? Not exactly. We’re then told:
Not so, Stewart replied Sept. 4. “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…” 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.”
That was the most recent written communication between Stewart and Parsons, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The correspondence between Stewart and Parsons was obtained by an Open Records Act request made by The Courier-Journal.
That was a month ago. Ol’ Hambo must be really squirming. What’s been happening since then? The news story quotes Mike Zovath, co-founder of Answers in Genesis and executive director of Ark Encounter:
“We’re still in the negotiation with the state, saying why are you requiring us to do something you don’t require other applicants to do? And why are you requiring us to give up our religious freedom and our religious rights to comply with an additional requirement that isn’t in the state Tourism Act?” Zovath said.
There’s much more in the news story, but that’s the guts of it. It looks to us as if Hambo’s project is in trouble. He might be able to work it out and get the tax incentives, but then again, he might not. We’ll keep you informed, dear reader, so stay tuned to this blog!
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