The suit filed against Kentucky by Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — is discussed here: AIG’s Complaint Against Kentucky, so no further introduction is needed.
We found two reactions that may be of interest — although the only reaction that ultimately matters will be that of the judge. The first is in the Advocate-Messenger of Danville, Kentucky, where we read Thumbs Up Thumbs Down. It seems to be an editorial that discusses several issues. The last few paragraphs are about Hambo’s litigation. We’ll excerpt those, with bold font added by us:
A group planning to build a Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky was recently, and correctly, denied $18 million in tax incentives to help finance the project. Answers in Genesis is threatening to sue the state, citing discrimination and a violation of its First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
AiG is right to invoke the First Amendment on this topic, but wrong in the belief its cause is advanced by doing so. The First Amendment addresses five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. It not only guarantees freedom of religion but freedom from religion, and it is clear in this case the taxpayers would be asked to support proselytizing disguised as economic development.
On the discrimination charge, AiG should be looking itself in the mirror. The group admits its “Ark Encounter” would hire only Christians.
It’s always interesting to see what the press in Kentucky thinks of ol’ Hambo’s efforts, and it seems to be all negative. We can’t recall any press coverage that supports Hambo. We’ve previously written about two items that oppose him, which appeared last month before the litigation began — see Kentucky TV Station Turns Against Hambo’s Ark, and then Kentucky Newspaper Turns Against Hambo’s Ark.
But there is some positive opinion that has shown up in the press. Alas for ol’ Hambo, it’s all written by AIG personnel. Here’s an article from a couple of days ago that was written by Mark Looy, AIG’s co-founder and vice president. It’s in the Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, which is the second-largest city in the state. It’s the same newspaper that had run a column opposed to AIG’s requested tax rebates. Looy’s article is titled Noah’s ark park seeking only equal treatment. There are more than 30 comments at the end.
Most of what Looy says is predictable, so we’ll only excerpt a few parts that seem worthy of our Curmudgeonly commentary. He writes:
[T]he legal issue is actually quite simple: Can the state treat a religious organization differently than it does other groups that apply to participate in the Kentucky tourism incentive program?
Yes, the state can do that. In fact, the state must do that. For example, a gigantic church may be a big tourist attraction, but the state can’t give them money. It’s the same thing with Hambo’s Ark Encounter. This isn’t very difficult to understand. Let’s read on:
We expect to obtain a judgment that affirms these officials were wrong to demand that AiG waive its statutory rights to exercise a religious preference in hiring and its constitutional rights to share its religious message at the Ark theme park.
[*Sigh*] AIG can be as religious as it wants, and it can discriminate all day long. It does those things right now, and no one is trying to stop them. But as a religious organization, it can’t get money from the state. Neither can their Ark Encounter project if it’s run like a religious organization — which they intend to do, as their complaint makes clear. We continue:
The state, as well as strident secular groups, can point to no specific law or statute that would deny a religious organization like AiG the right to hire staff members who agree with its mission.
That’s true of AIG. But unlike Ark Encounter, AIG isn’t asking for millions from the state. Here’s more:
[It’s a] myth is that the Ark Encounter should not receive the future sales tax rebate because it is allegedly a for-profit business. It is not. AiG’s non-profit subsidiary, Crosswater Canyon, owns the Ark and it has been approved by the IRS as a non-profit.
Ark Encounter is a for-profit business. Their own complaint says so. Yes, it’s run by religious non-profit organizations, but that isn’t important. The key to this case is that they want to do two constitutionally inconsistent things at the same time: (1) run Ark Encounter like a religious organization; and (2) receive money from the state. Moving along:
The state is demanding that in order for the Ark to benefit from the tourism incentive (otherwise available to other qualifying parties), we will have to surrender the hiring rights we already possess under the law and will not be allowed to share our Christian viewpoint at our park. This form of censorship imposes a huge burden on the Ark Encounter’s freedom of religion. It smacks of overt religious discrimination.
If Looy chooses to consider the separation of church and state to be “religious discrimination,” he’s free to have that opinion. But he shouldn’t expect a Federal judge to agree with him. Here’s one last excerpt:
Churches and religious organizations will be carefully watching this case, for they will wonder if they may also be threatened by some government entity concerning their hiring and expressions of faith.
This is tiresome. No one is threatening AIG’s right to hire whomever it wishes. They’ve always been free to hire only creationists. But — and we must repeat ourselves — they can’t expect to behave like that and receive millions from the state.
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