A few months ago we wrote City Wants To Tax Ken Ham’s Ticket Sales. The city of Williamstown wanted to impose a “safety assessment” tax of 50 cents for every admission ticket sold by Hambo’s Ark Encounter, and Hambo was upset.
We have the latest news about the situation from the Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, the second-largest city in the state, and they have a comments section. Their headline is Williamstown plans to reject Noah’s Ark tax exemption request. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
The city of Williamstown plans to reject a request from the Ark Encounter claiming exemption from a recently implemented safety assessment tax on the grounds that it is a religious entity, the Grant County News reports.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The city is correct. As stated in AIG’s Complaint Against Kentucky, which they filed in their effort to receive potentially millions of dollars in sales tax rebates, Ark Encounter, LLC is a for-profit company, which is owned by Crosswater Canyon, Inc., a 501(c)(3) religious non-profit corporation, and Answers in Genesis, Inc., (Hambo’s creationist ministry) owns Crosswater Canyon. Okay, back to the news story:
The tax collects a 50-cent charge on tickets in admission-based businesses within the city of Williamstown, and currently affects only three businesses: the Ark Encounter, Williamstown Family Fun Park and Main Street Gardens. … The tax does not apply to non-profit, religious, and charitable events and organizations.
Ark Encounter doesn’t qualify for any of those exemptions. The newspaper says:
The city plans to use revenue collected from the fee to fund upgraded emergency response equipment to better serve Williamstown’s needs as a growing tourist destination. The city’s budget estimates $715,000 in revenue from the safety assessment fee, which begins collecting from the three businesses on a monthly basis beginning July 1.
Egad — collection starts tomorrow! We’re told:
About $700,000 of the projected revenue is from the Ark Encounter, based on the projected 1.4 million in attendance at the tourist attraction. Representatives from the Ark Encounter initially said they would request an exemption from the fee if the city intended to collect more than $350,000 from the business, according to Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner.
What’s the basis for the requested exemption? Here it comes:
According to the letter sent by John E. Pence, secretary general [What?] for Answers in Genesis, the Ark Encounter was organized exclusively for religious purposes, and is solely owned and operated by Crosswater Canyon, a Kentucky non-profit corporation which is recognized as a tax-exempt religious organization and public charity under Section 501(c)(3) religious organizations and public charity.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Let’s read on:
Answers in Genesis co-founder and chief communications officer Mark Looy said that visitors to the Ark Encounter clearly recognize it as a religiously run attraction with a religious purpose, and that the organization filed the appeal because they feel the business should be exempt. “We simply applied for the exemption that is allowed under the specific wording of the safety assessment fee ordinance as it was adopted, as you would expect other exempted organizations to do,” Looy said.
Are they fooling anyone? Apparently not. We’re told:
[Williamstown Mayor] Skinner and the other Williamstown City Council members voiced their disagreement with the exemption request; with councilman Kim Crupper noting that the Ark Encounter operates on a for-profit status. City Attorney Jeff Shipp said the organization’s corporate filings in Missouri indicate that they are a for-profit corporation. Shipp said he would craft a formal response to the appeal sometime in the coming week. “We’ve done our research … and everything that we have found is that they are a for-profit company,” Skinner said.
Yes, but Hambo is the holiest man in the world. Why can’t he have it both ways? Another excerpt:
Looy said that even though the Ark Encounter is established as a for-profit subsidiary of Crosswater Canyon, the Ark Encounter is a religious organization, and therefore qualifies for the exemption.
Oh. It isn’t, but it is. That makes sense. Here’s one last excerpt:
Answers in Genesis Co-Founder Mike Zovath met with Skinner on June 27 to discuss solutions to the issue, but no agreement was reached. … Skinner said the council plans to discuss the issue at their July 10 meeting, and added that representatives from the Ark Encounter will likely attend to present their case.
So we’ve got a cliff-hanger. Will Hambo win? Can he have a for-profit corporation that qualifies for a non-profit religious exemption? Stay tuned to this blog!
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