Wednesday, December 10, 2014

No State Tax Incentives for the Ark Park - A Sensible Middle Position

The Answers in Genesis ministry, parent of the Creation Museum, had proposed a few years ago to create an Ark Park theme park, based on Noah's Ark, in central Kentucky.

Gov. Beshear supported the proposal as a good tourism draw for the state.  He caught some flack from the left for that position.  I think he was entirely in the right.

Now, though, the state Tourism Commission has withdrawn the offer of $18 million in tax incentives from the Ark Park.  They say that the sponsors have changed their position.  Originally, Answers in Genesis said they would not have a religious test for hiring at the park.  Recently, though, they have made clear that they would have a religion test for hiring.

The state's position is clear: tax incentives can't be used to advance a particular religion, nor discriminate on the basis of religion.

Answers in Genesis claims that their religious freedom will be violated if they can't both have a religious test in hiring and get state tax incentives.

I believe the state is, once again, correct in its judgment.

I also had my doubts that the Ark Park could ever succeed, but that is beside the principled point here.


Barry said...

The Ark Park is a specific religious group, and it should not qualify for goverment assistance of any type. It advances an extreme religious position, and as such, assisting it would allow for future precendent setting problems unforseen

Ken Lammers said...

I think the constitutional test for this in court would be whether Kentucky would give a similarly situated non-religious actor (another group wanting to build a themed park) the funds it was promising this religious group. If so, and Kentucky refuses to give the religious group the funds because the group hires consistent with its faith, Kentucky could be in constitutional trouble for dictating the religious group act contrary to its faith (hiring non-believers).

Personally, I think the religious group's problem in proving a constitutional violation wouldn't be as bad in the second part (dictating practices to a religious organization) as in the first. Unless Kentucky has a history of handing out hefty chunks of money to actors who plan to build themed parks in Kentucky it would be hard to pass the "similarly situated" test. In that case the original plan had serious constitutional issues to begin with.