Ken Ham’s Ark Park Loses Tax Incentives

Noah's Ark (by Edward Hicks, 1846)

Noah’s Ark (by Edward Hicks, 1846)

We were alerted to this by one of our clandestine operatives, who has 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.

The news appears in the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky (not far from ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum). Their headline is: Ark park won’t get Kentucky tax incentives.

Most of you already know the background for this story. If you don’t, it’s in our last post on this topic: Ken Ham’s Ark May Be Sinking. Here are some excerpts from the Courier-Journal story, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

State tourism officials will not grant development incentives for a proposed Noah’s ark theme park in Northern Kentucky, arguing that it violates the separation of church and state. The state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter project has evolved from a tourist attraction into a ministry that seeks to advance religion and intends to discriminate with religious-based hiring.

We’re confident that ol’ Hambo will take this information calmly. The news story also says:

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote in the letter. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.” The letter says the state will “take no further action” on the application.

There’s more to the story, but that’s the guts of it. In closing, all we can say is BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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38 responses to “Ken Ham’s Ark Park Loses Tax Incentives

  1. I love the smell of melting-down Creationists in the evening…

  2. Can’t wait for Ham’s meltdown decrying socialist government run amok and anti Christian bigotry.

  3. Talk about face-saving!

    They “just” figured it out??? RIIIIIIIGHT!!!!

  4. “The state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter project has evolved from a tourist attraction into a ministry that seeks to advance religion…”

    Interesting choice of words. At any rate, it’s good to see that rational decisions are possible in Kentucky. Would that that were the case across the river in Indiana, which has the nation’s largest voucher program funneling state money to creationist schools.

  5. Those dirty athiests. Thwarting god’s work.

  6. *sniff*

  7. Will Ham’s Ark project go on without these incentives? Isn’t he already short on his fund raising efforts, and likely sales of lifetime memberships on this imaginary vessel are not filling the void. Contributors and supports likely would not see any sort of refund coming their way. Maybe Ham will go back to Australia, pockets full of greenery?

  8. LadyAtheist says: “*sniff*”

    Here, use my handkerchief.

  9. I wonder how the people that purchased ark bonds, expecting the tax subsidy to pay the bondholders, felt when they heard this news?

  10. LadyAtheist says: “*sniff*”
    The Curmudgeon says: “Here, use my handkerchief.”

    I wouldn’t. You never know where that handkerchief has been.

  11. GreenPoisonFrog says: “Those dirty athiests. Thwarting god’s work.”

    Not much to thwart.
    And I’ll bet I’m athier than you so I’m the athiest.

  12. Tundra Boy says: “I wouldn’t [use the Curmudgeon’s handkerchief].”

    No, you’d prefer to use your sleeve.

  13. I know where my sleeves have been.

  14. ‘We’re confident that ol’ Hambo will take this information calmly.’

    ROTFLMAO!

  15. David K, in addition to flogging lifetime passes, Ham is offering the chance to buy a peg ($100), a plank ($1,000), or a beam ($5,000). With the latter you get an Ark replica personally signed by El Hambo. Who could resist such a stupendous offer?

  16. State tourism officials will not grant development incentives for a proposed Noah’s ark theme park in Northern Kentucky, arguing that it violates the separation of church and state. The state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter project has evolved from a tourist attraction into a ministry that seeks to advance religion and intends to discriminate with religious-based hiring.

    Ken Ham’s Ark of malarkey didn’t evolve into “a ministry that seeks to advance religion and intends to discriminate with religious-based hiring.” It was specially created, though not by God, for that very purpose.

  17. I guess Ken’s ham is cooked. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.

  18. I still wish the media would pay more attention to Ham’s ties to Peroutka (who apparently discovered that the League of the South is a racist, neo-Confederate organization only when he decided to run for public office). Ham spoke at Peroutka’s constitutional convention this fall. When questioned about this, the AiG site responded that to their knowledge Peroutka had no connection with the League and that their organization is not involved with politics. We all remember that the Peroutkas donated the T Rex to Ham’s museum. My issue is that Ken Ham makes a huge issue not only out of repudiating racism but also of attributing all modern racism to the wicked Charles Darwin. This is a piece of hypocrisy he should not be allowed to get away with.

  19. David, I would assume he’s going to use this setback as a means to collection more money from donors. The billboards are still going up (according to an attorney) and they plan to continue to fight for the tax incentives, too.

  20. Charles Deetz ;)

    Love Hambo’s lawer:

    “If you insist on the newly imposed condition… it will amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination and my client will have no choice but to seek redress in federal court,”.

    Unconstitutional discrimination? Pot calling kettle black.

  21. Ham’s lawyer: “…and my client will have no choice but to seek redress in federal court.”

    HA! The only winner if that happens is Ham’s lawyer. Talk about frivolous lawsuits!

  22. Imagine, for a moment, God exists. Or rather, the vile, vengeful, vindictive God of the Bible exists. Ham is clearly an embarrassment, being morally bankrupt, a liar and a money-loving con-man. He deliberately misrepresents God and is out to use God’s name to feed his own ego and bank balance. Wouldn’t Gd be angry with this pathetic human and seek to punish him? Perhaps this is Ham’s punishment.

    Not that Mr Lie will see it that way, of course.

  23. I’m surprised I didn’t see the real reason, that the Ark Park will have the same requirement for a statement of faith the creation museum has. The tourism board may wisely prefer Hambo’s illegit lawsuit to a bunch of lawsuits over being denied employment.
    But wait! Now that Hambo can’t play the secular card, can he get tax exemption for being a church?

  24. Lame, just lame. A lot of energy and heat yet no light.

  25. Troy asks, “Now that Hambo can’t play the secular card, can he get tax exemption for being a church?”

    He probably already has a tax exemption as a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization.

  26. Maybe he’ll cut his expenses and build only that part of the ark that would have been above the water. The tourists could just step up onto it, and walk around the deck. That and a few picnic tables, similar to a roadside rest area, with some port-a-potties, and he’s done.

  27. retiredsciguy says: “He probably already has a tax exemption as a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization.”

    I assume he does. But sales taxes are state activities, so it’s a matter of state law. A brief bit of Googling around (always risky in a technical area) suggests that churches and other non-profits don’t pay sales taxes unless the sales are from an unrelated business. I’m guessing that Hambo’s creation museum and its gift shop are sufficiently related to his ministry that they pay no sales tax.

    The Ark Park is a different matter. If it’s going to be collecting sales taxes for admission, and if Hambo is expecting a chunk of that to come back to him as a rebate from the state, then the Ark is a business activity unrelated to the AIG ministry. In that case they can’t have the same hiring practices that AIG does.

    But all of this is guesswork. If anyone knows more about it, I’m always willing to learn.

  28. As the Ayatollah, old Hambo believes he should be able to do whatever he wants. Pay no taxes, get free state funding, tax breaks bah! Pay NO taxes. Hire anybody he wants. Make his own rules. He’s the Ayatollah!!!

    This is how the “Biblical worldview” works. Simple. Some pigs are more equal than others.

  29. Remember what happened with Bob Jones University in the 80’s? They wanted to keep on with their long-standing policy of racial discrimination, so the IRS said if you do that, you lose your tax exemption. Now racism was hugely important to creationists, so BJU fought the case through court after court all the way up to SCOTUS.

    Each layer of the US judicial system agreed with BJU’s lawyers that racism against blacks was BJU’s sincerely held religious belief. Strangely, no one made any claims about Charles Darwin’s science inventing racism. The claim that Darwin invented racism came sometime after BJU’s defeat.

    The legal question was whether creationists’ most sincerely held religious beliefs (racism, white supremacy, discrimination) rendered them immune to federal law. It didn’t; they lost. Religious beliefs did not make one immune to law. Ah, the halcyon days pre-Hobby Lobby!

    Anyway BJU lost, and they were willing to pay $1 million in back taxes (ruling was retroactive) rather than stop discriminating. Which they continued to do until 2001.

    I used to think BJU was the worst, but Ken Ham is worse. He wants to have his cake and eat it too: to discriminate against Jews and Catholics and atheists, while being given fat tax rebates.

    No doubt Ken Ham and his lawyers think they can Hobby Lobby the state of Kentucky. Given that conservative juducial activism is so flagrant (again, Hobby Lobby), the outcome is not certain. But no politician at the national level wants to stand before the cameras and say, “We changed the rules so a humorless Australian lycanthrope can discriminate against Jews.”

  30. Slightly off-topic but since Diogenes has mentioned Hobby Lobby (whom I’ve just Googled because I’ve never heard of them), recently a couple of Hoteliers in the UK refused to let a couple stay (on religious grounds) after they had booked a room after they found out they were gay. They lost a High court ruling and with the subsequent negative publicity, soon went bust. They then said it was not homophobia (but of course) as they don’t let any unmarried couples stay either & then complained the usual it’s anti-Christian liberals…blah, blah, blah.

    It does beg the question though “If they don’t like unmarried couples sleeping together, why the hell go into a business of letting out double beds for couples you don’t know?”

  31. @Jason

    There’s the refrain that occurs with many religions today, around the world, “I have no objection to such-and-such people, but God tells me that I must …”. (Shun them, take their land, or worse.)

    Compare with saying, “I know that the science supporting evolution is impeccable, but the Bible tells me not to accept it.” The evil is of course, different, and I wouldn’t want to belittle that.

  32. Charles Deetz ;)

    Taking a step back, this looks like a pretty clumsy error on Hammy’s part. The legal structure was sure to be developed by his lawyers to comply with all laws before he even started asking for tax incentives.

    I think the error is not clumsy, but a planned way out of the Ark Park project. Rather than bail on the failing project outright, he’d rather play a victim of government. He keeps the high road, makes the government look oppressive to his supporters, and he and his organization carries on.

    Admitting that he doesn’t have enough money for the project is anathema to admitting that all the animals wouldn’t fit on the ark. And a admission like that would greatly affect AIG and his museum.

  33. SC says:

    But all of this is guesswork. If anyone knows more about it, I’m always willing to learn.

    Rather than type all this again, is it ok if I just refer to a post I made at the International Skeptic’s Forum (formerly the forum at the James Randi Educational Foundation) here?

    Briefly, Ark Encounter is a for-profit LLC whose sole owner is a non-profit 501(c)(3) (Crosswater Canyon), which is, in turn, controlled by AIG. The LLC part is because, as Ark Encounter themselves admitted

    The for-profit LLC structure also allows the Ark Encounter to be eligible for various economic development incentives that would not have been available with a non-profit structure.

    And it’s set up under the 501(c)(3) so Crosswater Canyon, and AIG, can control the content and (they hope) the operations; IOW, so Ham can have the benefit of law when it comes to financing and maintaining the thing, but avoid the strictures of law when it comes to staffing it.

    (References and links are in my ISF post- if you’d rather I not link there, that’s fine, you can delete, and I’ll try to re-assemble it here)

  34. And the story continues:
    Bluegrass Bonanza: Ky. Officials Reject ‘Ark Park’s’ Request For $18 Million Tax Rebate

    https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/bluegrass-bonanza-ky-officials-reject-ark-park-s-request-for-18-million-tax

  35. The Curmudgeon wrote:
    I’m guessing that Hambo’s creation museum and its gift shop are sufficiently related to his ministry that they pay no sales tax.

    Correct. The Gift Shop itself pays no sales tax on things it buys. For example, when the Gift Shop orders a box of cash register printer ribbons, they are probably exempt from paying sales tax on those supplies. But when customers come into the Ark Park Gift Shop, unless they show the clerk a proof of sales tax exemption [Many states demand that even 501c3’s and churches apply for the little exemption card or certificate which they can present to any retailer], it is the individual customer who or which is paying the sales tax. The fact that some item is “religious” or purchased from a 501c3 or even a church has, in most states (probably all 50), is irrelevant to whether a customer is subject to sales tax. Of course, that is why this Kentucky sales tax rebate situation is so important to Ken Ham! (Instead of sending all of the sales taxes collected by the Ark Park, from the bookstore, the giftshop, the snack bar, and general admission tickets, Ham’s hope was that the state would allow him to keep 25% of those monies collected for the first ten years.)

    Admission to the Ark Park would presumably be taxed according to the same rates and procedures Kentucky applies to movie tickets: The sales tax is already “embedded” in the price of the ticket. Again, because it is the consumer who pays sales taxes, and the seller is just an “agent” for the state, in most states the nature of the seller (profit or non-profit) is immaterial. (Are a lot of things informally sold in churches, such as the booklets used in Sunday School classes where class members are asked to chip in $2 each but no sales tax is assessed? Yes. States generally allow de minimis to be ignored. But if those booklets are sold at a mega-church’s bookstore, then standard sales taxes must apply.)

    Jimmy Swaggert tried to ignore charging sales taxes for his audio tapes and books sold in church foyers where he spoke and did concerts. He claimed in a court challenge that because his ministry was a church, no state government could sales tax his books and tapes. He claimed that that would be interfering in his religion and violated his Constitutional rights in keeping the government out of church matters. The courts didn’t agree with him. He had to write a check and pay the sales taxes which his customers had not paid themselves at the time of purchase.

  36. Oops. Sorry about the unclosed bold tag above.

    When one talks of “tax exemption”, the complications multiply at the local, state, and federal levels and any given “tax-exempt” entity may legally avoid some types of taxes and not others: sales tax, excise tax, corporate income tax, property tax, vehicle tax, intangibles tax, and then an entire tangle of payroll taxes: social security/medicare taxes, workman’s comp taxes, unemployment taxes, and more.

    Colorado Springs, Colorado became the Christian ministry mecca and boomtown because the city fathers created a much more favorable tax environment for Christian tax-exempt organizations and non-profits. For example, California was/is relatively “hostile” to federal tax-exempt organizations (such as James Dobson’s former Focus on the Family) and the annual property taxes alone were so onerous that FotF moved to Colorado Springs and the publicity led to a virtual stampede and exodus. This confused a lot of people because they misunderstand the meaning of “tax-exempt organization”.