Creationist Group Wants a Tax Break to Discriminate

by Dan Quinn

How far will religious-righters go to use faith as a weapon to harm others? Pretty far — including demanding government help to do it.

Answers in Genesis, a militantly anti-evolution ministry, is suing the state of Kentucky for the right of its proposed creation theme park to discriminate on the basis of religion even while getting $18 million in tax incentives.

Kentucky tourism officials told Answers in Genesis in December that the proposed Ark Encounter creationist theme park won’t be eligible for the tax incentives unless the organization pledges not to discriminate in hiring based on religion. That’s a requirement any non-religious business must meet. But Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham is claiming that Kentucky officials are hostile to religion:

“(T)he 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.”

Ham — who has attacked the Texas Freedom Network for defending the teaching of evolution — is talking nonsense. The state is simply treating his proposed theme park as it would any other business. If Ham wants the right to discriminate on the basis of religion, then the theme park isn’t a business — it’s part of his ministry. Indeed, the state’s tourism secretary, in a letter to Answers in Genesis in December, worried that the theme park was evolving into an extension of the group’s ministry rather than a tourist attraction:

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

That is entirely correct. Frankly, however, we always thought it was a bad idea to provide tax incentives even to a supposedly non-religious business, like this creationist theme park, that is really promoting a particular religious perspective. But by demanding the right to discriminate, Ham simply made it clearer to Kentucky officials that tax incentives for the theme park were improper.

If Ham wants to create an expensive propaganda tool to promote his ministry and particular religious beliefs about creation, he has every right to do so — on his own dime. But has no right to expect government to help him do it, especially if he wants to use that help to discriminate against people who don’t share his religious beliefs.

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