The state of Kentucky thinks it is OK to support this kind of ridiculous discrimination with tax breaks

Two of these things are not like the others... Two of these things are not like the others...

As you may have heard, a GOP-affiliated and Bush-appointed federal judge ruled yesterday that a super-important part of the First Amendment is to guarantee tax breaks for religious theme parks with insanely discriminatory hiring practices.

While Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham “rejoices” that his well-paid legal team prevailed in his unbiblical lawsuit over his unbiblical project, Kentucky’s newly … “elected,” Tea Party-approved governor, Matt Bevin, has already said he thought Judge Van Tatenhove’s decision was A-plus, and he doesn’t plan to appeal.

Now, let me say right up front that this is not going to be some embittered, sour grapes post, whining about how this ruling is a miscarriage of constitutional law which shall unleash a maelstrom of injustice across the nation, leaving devastation, destruction and dead puppies in its wake. I’m far too mature for anything like that.

And besides, if that is what you want to see, there will no doubt be plenty of that flowing from the keyboards of liberal bloggers this week.

But me, no, I don’t want to give you my opinion of how ludicrous this decision was. Instead, I just want to show you exactly the kind of religious discrimination that Answers in Genesis is practicing, right now, as it staffs up for its new attraction’s opening this summer, and to which the state of Kentucky yesterday gave its full support, legally and monetarily.

This is a listing for a “grounds maintenance technician” at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Ky. It looks like your typical boring groundskeeper job description, until you get to the “items needed for possible employment,” which include “salvation testimony,” “creation belief statement” and “confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.”

That’s right: To even apply for a job as a glorified parking lot custodian at Ham’s Ark Encounter, one must provide documented proof of membership and good standing in the Jesus Club. If Ham and his goons ran the pearly gates, you wouldn’t be allowed into heaven without an original birth certificate, a rebirth certificate, three forms of photo ID, a dissertation on Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, a link to a moving YouTube video of yourself describing the impact your favorite Christian worship band has had on your life, and at least one visible scar of an injury received during a physical altercation with a college biology professor or an employee of Planned Parenthood.

Anyway. That’s just the introduction. It gets much worse. The next page looks like this:

aig app

You’ll notice that, in addition to “Are you at least 18 years of age?” and “Do you have 3 years professional grounds maintenance experience?,” AiG also wants to know if you have “thoroughly read and reviewed” its faith statement, and agree with it “100%.”

And, just in case you were thinking this “Statement of Faith” is some basic list of Christian beliefs that the majority of Americans could probably affirm, it is, in actuality, a painstakingly thorough treatise encompassing all the fine minutiae of AiG’s worldview, not just about God, the Bible and science, but also hell, Satan, unrelated social issues, even epistemology, of all things.

As Kentucky resident and friend of GOE Christopher Jones wrote in a letter to his new governor, the descent into madness continues with the following list of questions being included in the application. And, just to reiterate, we’re talking about an application to be a groundskeeper.

How old would you estimate the earth to be?

What is your belief/conviction about the flood of Noah’s day?

What is your belief about dinosaurs?

Which of the following statements BEST describes your position regarding race and various races?

What do you believe is required for one to go to heaven when they die?

How certain are you that you will go to heaven?

When you die and stand before God, if He were to ask you “Why should I let you into heaven?”, what would your response be?

What would cause anyone to go to hell?

Which statement best describes your position about punishment for unbelievers after death?

Because, obviously, one’s “beliefs about dinosaurs” is critically important to how well they can pick up Kit Kat wrappers from a sidewalk and kick dirt back onto a dirt pile. And, if someone can’t provide an orthodox description of what happens to unbelievers after they die, you know they sure as heck can’t provide adequate maintenance to a dwarf Japanese holly shrub or a climbing Hydrangea.

Christopher puts it well:

None of these questions have anything to do with the Groundskeeper job. These are questions to discriminate against ANYONE who doesn’t agree 100% with Answers in Genesis’ philosophy. The Ark Encounter is a for-profit organization that is hiring on highly discriminatory terms. These tax breaks are blatantly illegal and should be (repealed) immediately.

Look, the Bill of Rights is a wonderful document. I love the First Amendment, and I recognize that it promises me many wonderful freedoms, while guaranteeing the same freedoms for things I find disagreeable, wrong and even abhorrent.

When it comes right down to it, Answers in Genesis, as a religious organization, should be free to hire only people who agree with its crazy beliefs, even in situations where that policy makes absolutely no sense.

They actually do have the “right” to discriminate, such as it is. But, for crying out loud, the people of Kentucky should not have to foot the bill for it.

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • We had to fire our groundskeeper because he wasn’t a cessationist.

  • Seth

    Profoundly disturbed by this ruling. An employer who has a religious test for employment at a for profit enterprise should be forbidden under EEOC, much less be allowed tax breaks. I hope someone files an EEOC complaint.

  • Andrew

    As a right winger and a supporter of the Gop I have to say this is FREAKING RIDICULOUS. It might have been a little better if AIG had at least tried to disguise this, but this is pretty blatant.

    • Isn’t it just crazy? I feel like I’m insane trying to explain why people should be upset about this.

      • Andrew

        This must be very recent because the last time I checked the blogging worlds of Patheos Atheist and Progressive Christian there was nothing about this (although I’m sure they’re on the warpath now). I didn’t ever expect to hear about it again. I kind of thought that once it was pointed out they were discriminating there would be no tax breaks, period end of story. Yeah your right. It’s crazy that people don’t see the problem with this.

        • The decision just came down a couple days ago. I know Danthropology posted about it. Haven’t checked to see anything else, but feel free to share links here if you find any good or provocative coverage.

  • Chris

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, but I think it’s a case of CYA taken too far. I think it’s a way to weed out people who may have ulterior motives in working there, or could sabotage the whole ship. Like do they want the groundskeeper with access to the attractions setting up something that can really undermine what they’ve done.

    It’s like a tv show I was watching recently, a waiter at a lobster restaurant that was so hug-the-animals that he refused to sell lobster and even tried to set them free. If you can’t get on board with the program, you don’t belong.

    And the first amendment applies to government; not sure how for-profit businesses are held to discrimination, but places like Hooters/Tilted Kilt are able to get away with discrimination when it is related to the business, probably the same thing….

    • Andrew

      Fair enough, I could see somebody wanting to get hired there just to make trouble now that you mention it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        But it’s still a dumb move.
        (Come to think of it, this Ark Park wasn’t that brilliant an idea from Day One…)

        • Chris

          Yeah, I keep asking them where they sail to first but no one will answer me. You spend that much on a boat that you claim is “historically accurate” and the thing doesn’t even float? C’mon, man.

          Got banned from the Ark Park FB page for it (though their stupid ads still fill my feed) but somehow still remain under the radar on the main AiG page (for now)….

          • summers-lad

            Two tickets to Mount Ararat, please.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            You’ll have to clean up after all the other four-legged passengers…

          • Pretty sure the “historically accurate” thing went out the window about the time they started using bulldozers to clear the foundation and designed the structure to be loaded with industrial steel.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            Don’t you know “Gopher Wood” = Structural Steel and Concrete Block?

          • No, I must have missed that Hebrew lesson. LOL.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy

            LOL I keep asking them where they sail to first but no one will answer me.

            What’s the elevation of Ham’s Ark above sea level?
            And how far inland is Kentucky?

    • Well, I can maybe see the possibility of that happening, but I don’t know how much of a deterrent this really is (if that is actually the reason for it). Anyone who is unbalanced enough to seek a job for the sole purposes of sabotage and corporate espionage is probably not going to be held up by having to lie about being a Christian or a young-earth creationist.

      As to the legality of the whole thing, employers cannot, in most cases, discriminate in hiring or in the treatment of employees on the basis of religion, race, sex, disability and a few other protected classes. It doesn’t matter if the employer is a for-profit or non-profit. And it’s not a constitutional thing, it’s federal law.

      In U.S. discrimination law, there is something called “bona fide occupational qualifications,” in which discrimination can be permitted. For example, an advertising company looking for a person to model male clothing is allowed to interview only men for the position.

      Likewise, a church, Christian college or other religious enterprise is permitted to make agreement with the religion or doctrinal particulars of the institution a requirement for application. However, my understanding was that this wouldn’t apply to a position where religious belief is not essential to the exercise of one’s duties. Like, a Catholic university couldn’t require that its secretaries or janitors be members of the Catholic Church.

      Honestly, I don’t know how AiG is getting away with what it does. Probably no one wants to challenge them because, evidently, because all the judges down there are screaming creationists who will give them whatever they want.

      • Chris

        Yeah, it wouldn’t deter them from just lying, but “lying on an application” is a much more defensible reason to fire someone down the road if they suspect something nefarious. I dunno, I just don’t get the hoopla.

        And I thought churches got a special pass as nonprofits; there was a secretary at a church (or some church-owned entity like a school) around here that was fired for being pregnant and unmarried. Made national news, but they got away with it because of similar “statement of faith” compliance. They didn’t want anyone not looking the part.

        • I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll admit I don’t fully understand all the exemptions and bona fides that intricacies of federal law and case rulings have allowed. But I do know that churches and any other nonprofits do not get “free passes.”

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Kentucky’s newly … “elected,” Tea Party-approved governor, Matt Bevin, has already said he thought Judge Van Tatenhove’s decision was A-plus, and he doesn’t plan to appeal.

    Doing the LOOORD’s work against those Heathens.
    Culture War Without End, Amen.

    • Professor_Tertius

      I can see why a politician in Kentucky would feel great about the court decision. It solves their potential problems with both sides: The Hamites have their victory and can go on with Arkdom and the opponents had their day in court and politicians can say, “Hey, it was challenged and the federal courts had their say. We are complying with their ruling.”

  • Mahatma Randy

    While I see lots of reasons to dislike the Ark Adventure thing, I’m not sure I see the problem in this particular case. What’s wrong with a religious organization only hiring people who have the same religious views? I mean you wouldn’t expect a Synagogue to hire a Baptist Preacher as Rabbi. (That said, I do know some synagogues at occasionally bring in organists and stuff from Christian churches when they’re short staffed)

    • Of course a nonprofit religious organization, ministry or church would be allowed to hire people who adhere to the same views. The problem is that AiG also wants to be treated as a for-profit business enterprise for the purposes of capturing the tourism-related tax breaks from the state of Kentucky and other incentives. And if a business is going to get special tax incentives from the government, it should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion. That’s basic First Amendment stuff.

      • Mahatma Randy

        Gotcha

        • Professor_Tertius

          Yes, it is a very strange case of have-your-cake and eat-it-too for Ken Ham. I guess what saddens me even more is that economic prospects for people in that area of Kentucky are so limited that desperation has led to so many compromises about this embarrassing boondoggle.

          So I totally understand Tyler’s frustration. But it is all the more sad that the state and community is reduced to such humiliation. It is easy for Americans in much of the country to not notice just how desperate are the economic conditions for many in our country. (I recently read how Europeans are fascinated by American documentaries which explain how many MILLIONS of people in the USA–the nation which fed Europe and rebuilt the continent after WWII–is unable to provide basic health care and essentials to its people. Hurricane Katrina documentaries were a huge shock to much of the world, especially when they saw buses flooded in parking lots while lots of poor people had to weather the storm on their own.)

          Ham is offering jobs in a depressed area. That’s all that matters to many. I think the Ark Park is Ham’s jump-the-shark and Heritage USA downfall rolled into one—but it will probably take about seven years or so before both the museum and the park will drain the general fund so severely that his “empire” will fall apart.

          Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for Tony “Goat Charmer” Breeden to explain his evidence that I’m a troll and a Poe.

          I’m stuck in a airport and sufficiently bored to actually comment on Ken Ham and Goat Charmer antics. That’s not good.

          • Yeah, I’m just really afraid the people have no idea what a potential mess their city and county leaders have gotten them into. If the Ark Park does go under, or even if it doesn’t but its pie-in-the-sky attendance estimates still fail to materialize, it’s the local taxpayers and taxing districts that will wind up footing the bill for decades to come.

          • Professor_Tertius

            Exactly. So frustrating. Utter desperation and lack of options leads to bad decisions to gamble on Ham’s tourist trap.

            Frankly, I was shocked when I saw the price of Ark Park admission tickets PLUS the parking fees. I don’t know what Disney charges to get into Disneyland and Epcot—but they do give people lots and lots of things to see and do. With the Ark Park, they aren’t going to see any actual life-size version of Noah’s Ark. Not at all. It doesn’t even float and it was built using modern equipment and designs. And Ham didn’t even TRY to bring into that “ark shaped building” twos and sevens of every kind of NEPHESH animal. I’ll bet you that a lot of little kids aren’t going to be happy with a petting zoo when they expected to see pairs of elephants, giraffes, bears, etc.

            Why didn’t Ham duplicate the most central aspects of the Genesis ark? He knew that it would be impossible—-and that even in trying, his Ark Park would actually UNDERMINE his traditional view of the Noahic Ark. Frankly, I anticipate a lot of visitors are going to be underwhelmed. Even some of his “true believers”. They will try to hide their disappointment. Many will even feel guilty that they just didn’t find it very impressive. But eventually they will start talking among themselves.

            I’m already sick and tired of Ham’s whining about “Ark haters”. Nobody in the world can criticize anything he does without being “haters”. Yeah, right.

          • I wish I could say I agree with your feeling about even “true believers” being overwhelmed, but experience has taught me to be pretty pessimistic about convinced YECs’ ability to be objectively reasonable about anything that is in line with their views.

            I mean, I’ve been to the Creation Museum, and found that to be not only underwhelming but embarrassingly unconvincing. Still can’t tell you how many YECs I’ve heard go on and on about how “amazing” it is, and how if I could just go there I would completely abandon all of my evolutionary “faith.”

          • Professor_Tertius

            That is very fascinating to me. I don’t doubt what you are saying—and it is entirely possible that the acquaintances I’ve known who visited the Creation Museum may have been atypical. In one case, a YEC associate was so silent about their vacation trip there that I asked him for his thoughts on the museum. He gave a polite and generally positive appraisal, but when I probed about his apparent lack of enthusiasm, he mentioned the following:

            1) The Creation Museum actually presents (at least at the time of his visit) some arguments for a young earth which AIG’s own website urges Christians not to use. At this moment I can’t recall them from memory but I do recall looking up some video tours of the museum online to confirm what he reported. Sure enough, there were signs/posters in the museum repeating those discredited arguments. That surprised both of us.

            2) He lamented the many appalling errors and even typos in the museums signs—even silly things like Hebrew letters copied incorrectly. (I remember looking it up and seeing confusion between medial and terminal forms of Hebrew letters, for example.) I could imagine those things creeping in to a new museum display if there was nobody to proofread captions,etc. But years later? Don’t they ever fix their bloopers? Don’t they care?

            That associate may be somewhat atypical simply because he earned an M.Div. and is semi-competent in the Bible languages. So he expected to find himself impressed by the “academic standards” of the museum. Clearly he wasn’t—and I was kind of surprised that he was willing to tell me about specific disappointments.

            Is his view a rare one? Perhaps. I really don’t know.

            I certainly expect that lots of people think in shallow terms and certainly the average Creation Museum visitor would fit that stereotype. They could probably have a museum display of humans playing polo using dinosaurs like they were their horses and nobody would blink an eye. (I’ve often wondered how many Flintstone-type working-dinosaurs they could depict without any complaints.) YET……I’ve noticed this:

            Not a one of my acquaintances who spoke of visiting the Creation Museum said anything about going back for another visit. I think it is small enough and static enough that the experience just doesn’t warrant the repeat expense. They are not geographically located alongside lots of other tourist-trap attractions so I think that both projects (CM and the Ark Park) are financially doomed for the long term.

            Can Ken Ham sustain them both out of general revenues for the long haul? Perhaps. But not if his hubris leads him to overbuild.

            My experience with Ken Ham types tells me that he will find overbuilding irresistible. I think the Ark Park will eventually be Ken Ham’s “Heritage USA”. I just don’t think the demographics and numbers can sustain it for the long-term—-even if ALL of his die-hard YEC visitors thoroughly love it.

          • Professor_Tertius

            By the way, here are some links to items which I’ve recently stumbled upon which related well to origins-ministry thinking even though they address other types of conspiracy theories and pseudo-science nonsense:

            https://skeptoid.com/blog/2016/03/07/introducing-the-conspirators/

            http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/04/food_fad_evidence_logic_and_science_can_fight_misperceptions_about_nutrition.html

            I think you will enjoy these items and find that they stimulate your thinking.

          • The Creation Museum actually presents (at least at the time of his visit) some arguments for a young earth which AIG’s own website urges Christians not to use.

            One that I know was in there when I went was that Voltaire’s house was taken over by the Geneva Bible Society to use as a printing house. Not really a young-earth argument, just a more general “Suck on it, atheists!” argument that AiG is also quite fond of. But still, it is on their list of “Arguments Creationists Should Not Use” (since, you know, it’s a complete lie), and yet, it is in their museum. (Or again, it was when I went there in 2012.)

            Still, your overall point is really interesting. I know I’ve asked some younger, not particularly deep-thinking folks who have visited it, and they thought it was amazing, but I have a pastor acquaintance who has also gone and who strikes me as more reflective. Maybe I’ll ask him his thoughts.

          • Seth

            Goat Charmer?

          • The goat charmer is Tony Breeden. See here: http://www.godofevolution.com/the-goat-charmer-returns/

  • Seth

    Latest AiG newsletter crowed at length about the decision, piled on the persecution complex with abandon, and wondered why the Atheists and Liberal Christians hate the Ark so much. Apparently Hammie can’t separate his crass theme park from a biblical chapter. If anyone is interested I can scan it.

    • Yes, please do. I’ll share it on the main site. Always interesting to see what those guys say when they think no one but their devotees are listening.