Ken Ham Wins Discrimination Suit Over Kentucky’s Denial of Sales Tax Rebate for ‘Ark Encounter’

HamPETERSBURG, Ky. — The Creation ministry Answers in Genesis (AiG) has won its discrimination suit against officials in the state of Kentucky for denying its Ark Encounter project participation in the state’s sales tax rebate incentive program.

As previously reported, the state of Kentucky has an incentive called the Tourism Development Act, where new attractions in the state can receive a partial refund of the sales tax paid in an effort to reward organizations that help increase tourism.

AiG was initially approved for the rebate, but following outcry from atheists and church-state separation groups, the decision was overturned. State officials say that the hangup they have over allowing the rebate under the tourism incentive is that the Ark Encounter is religious in nature.

Gov. Steve Beshear also told reporters last year that the state had rescinded its initial approval for the sales tax rebate because the Ark Encounter planned to hire only Christians, which he viewed as being discriminatory.

“We expect any entity that accepts state incentives not to discriminate on any basis in hiring,” he said in a statement. “[I]t has become apparent that [leaders of the Ark Encounter] 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.”

Last February, AiG President Ken Ham filed a federal discrimination suit over the matter after several attempts to work out the situation outside of court.

“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” he said in a news release. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

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Ham also noted that despite claims from opponents, AiG is receiving no state money—and thus no taxpayer funds—to build the biblical theme park. The organization was simply seeking inclusion in the statewide sales tax rebate program offered to all new tourist attractions.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove agreed with AiG and issued a preliminary injunction against the state’s actions.

“The court finds that the Commonwealth’s exclusion of AiG from participating in the program for the reasons stated — i.e., on the basis of AiG’s religious beliefs, purpose, mission, message, or conduct, is a violation of AiG’s rights under the First Amendment to the federal Constitution,” Tatenhove wrote in his decision.

“Because … AiG has shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their federal First Amendment claims, the Kentucky Constitution cannot bar those claims,” he continued. “When balancing this finding against the other necessary factors, the court concludes that a preliminary injunction is warranted.”

Tatenhove also agreed that AiG has a right to hire those who comport with the religious mission of the theme park.

Ham says that he is happy with the outcome of the case.

“I rejoice in the court’s decision today,” he wrote in a statement. “The law is crystal clear that the state cannot discriminate against a Christian group simply because of its viewpoint, but that is precisely what happened here. The decision today is a victory for the free exercise of religion in this country, including in hiring.”


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  • bowie1

    Congratulations to Mr. Ham for the success of this case.

  • Pererin

    Great news, can’t wait to see this.
    Answers in Genesis is doing great work for the Lord.

  • HoobieSlaw

    AIG… The biggest BS pseudoscience propaganda machine ever produced. Taking legitimate science and skewing it just enough to try and deceive people. When that doesn’t work they flat out LIE. The worst part is they KNOW they are deceiving people and spreading scientific ignorance.

    • Jesse Hallam

      Care to give an example?

      • HoobieSlaw

        Sorry, pal. Posted a nice long list of examples but the moderators deleted it.

        • LePastieDeLaBourgeoisie

          Totally agree. Biggest snake oil salesman out there.

    • Pegon Zellschmidt

      Deep.

  • FoJC_Forever

    Why do some people think they have the right to not pay taxes, while others have to pay taxes? Jesus didn’t tell Peter to file a lawsuit against the people demanding the temple tax, He told him where to get the money – miraculously.

    Intellectual Christianity is not filled with God’s power and thrives on controversy and debate.

    Follow Jesus, find Truth.

    • Randy Abell

      Not about paying taxes:

      “Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” he said in a news release. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

      and the ruling Judge agreed.

      • FoJC_Forever

        Yes it is. Religious leaders want to be tax free, while the rest of us have to pay taxes. They teach tithing on the gross, before taxes, while they don’t pay any taxes. False religion teaches that some have to pay taxes, while others don’t have to pay.

        You can lie all you want and fight for your ‘religious right to not pay taxes’, but it isn’t Christian and it is not taught in the Bible.

        Follow Jesus, find Truth.

        • Randy Abell

          You do understand that the ark encounter will be paying taxes (it’s a for profit business) so I’m not sure what you are taking about. That is why it can take advantage of the tourist tax credit available to anyone that meets the state criteria.

        • Betty Sines

          Wrong..your answer is deceptive. “Leaders” do not want to be tax free… (and are not tax free) They pay taxes and just as much as you or anyone else. It is the Organization (the church it’s self, or organization) that is tax exempt (legally under the laws) The leaders, that are on pay roll such as, pastors, office staff, anyone paid a salary or hourly by the organization do pay taxes and are Not exempt.

          • FoJC_Forever

            No, I’m not wrong. Religious leaders and organizations want to be tax free (501 (c)3), while teaching people who pay taxes to tithe off of their gross income. It’s a common false teaching to Christians, and has been for a long time. Jesus didn’t dodge the temple tax, when asked about it by Peter, but told him where to get the money to pay it. I know those who are deceived by the false doctrine and even preach the false doctrine will try to defend it, because they want to get paid – $$$.

            You minor details don’t refute the Truth. They just show where your heart is – $$$.

            Follow Jesus, find Truth.

  • Tom Derrick

    Going back to this article and it’s contents has upset me very much. For Mr Ham to receive any monetary advantage from Kentucky for a religious playground for the ignorant is appalling to me. Kentucky is the big loser in this joke of theme park. It probably shouldn’t bother me, as I am not a resident of Kentucky, but it does. Hopefully it will go to the soon to be better staffed SCOTUS, and be overturned.

  • Tom Derrick

    Have
    you ever taken the time to read the Bible’s story of Noah’s flood? And
    have you ever pondered what this story’s position in the Bible might
    actually mean? While there are many people who consider the Bible, and
    therefore Noah’s story, to be literally true, most educated and
    intelligent people understand that the story of Noah’s flood is a myth.
    They understand that Mt. Everest was never covered in flood water, they
    understand that the ark could not hold the millions of species that are
    now found on earth, and they understand that there is no DNA evidence to
    show that all animals on earth came from single breeding pairs just a
    few thousand years ago.