Ken Hamms Ark Park is sinking.
The trouble began when the park, officially called Ark Encounter, listed its employment opportunities in August. Nestled among the requirements for all job applicants were three troubling obligatory documents: “Salvation testimony,” “Creation belief statement,” and a “Confirmation of your agreement with the AiG statement of faith.” (AiG is Answers in Genesis, Ham’s ministry and Ark Encounter’s parent company.) These first two requirements are problematic enough: The park is quite openly instructing all applicants to pledge that they personally believe in creationist Christianity. If an applicant has other beliefs, her application to Ark Encounter isn’t welcome.
Wisely, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, which oversees the dispersal of tax incentives, halted its funding after it saw Ark Encounter’s employment application. Bob Stewart, secretary of the cabinet, wrote to Ham that “the Commonwealth does not provide incentives to any company that discriminates on the basis of religion and we will not make any exception for Ark Encounter, LLC.” Before funding could proceed, Stewart explained, “the Commonwealth must have the express written assurance from Ark Encounter, LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring.”
In a brash and legally baffling move, Ark Encounter decided to fight back. Mike Zovath, Ark Encounter’s executive director, told reporters that Kentucky was “requiring us to give up our religious freedom and our religious rights,” and denied the validity of the state’s concerns. Given that the tax credits are still subject to final approvaland that approval is contingent upon Ark Encounter not breaking the lawone might expect Ham and his cohorts to simply comply with the state constitution. But they seem committed to the belief that their religious freedom gives them a right to take state funds with one hand and push away non-Christians with the other.