—-Updated from my original post, Answers in Genesis: A Profile in Parasitism.—-
The State of Kentucky has decided to extend no further tax incentives to Ark Encounters, a Christian fundamentalist theme park.
Now, I understand that some folks might think the following is a continuing attack against Christianity in general and Answers in Genesis (AiG) in particular. On the contrary. I am only suggesting how I believe empathy could be applied to this situation such that the solution is in the best interest of everyone. That is, by the way, the purpose of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.
Fairness requires empathy, and empathy can only be derived from within.
First, with regard to AiG, note that no one is making any attempt to shut down its right to purchase property and have a theme park. First Amendment watchdog groups demand only that governments–federal, state and local–represent all of its citizens, without regard to their religious beliefs, their political opinions, or their financial standing. All working citizens pay taxes, thus, all citizens must have free access to commerce and must not be forced to subsidise sectarian religion.
Secondly, in the United States–as most of you know–all religions are to be treated equally under constitutional law. The only way this can be accomplished is for the government to remain neutral in matters of religion, (i.e., it cannot make laws respecting anyone’s religion).
When the courts attend matters of church and state separation, they reference the intent of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, which may be found in Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. Here is the excerpt pertinent to the AiG case.
Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical . . . [note that Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian]
How could this be more empathetic and fair to all citizens?
Now, with regard to AIG’s ongoing efforts to have the taxpayers of Kentucky pony up 10s of million$ more in tax breaks for its restrictive, fundamentalist Ark Encounters theme park, after Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) reminded Kentucky lawmakers, many times, that they were elected to serve all the people and not just fundamentalist Christians, the State backed out of further tax incentives for the park. AiG is now resorting to revenge attacks for being forced to abide by the Constitution.
Answers in Genesis (AiG), a creationist Christian ministry, had applied for a 25 percent sales tax rebate through the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for Ark Encounter, a theme park that will feature a 510-foot replica of Noah’s Ark. The application received preliminary approval, and since the project is expected to cost $73 million, final approval would have cost the state up to $18 million in sales tax revenue.
But the Ark Park sailed into stormy seas in August when Americans United informed the tourism cabinet that AiG had posted online an opening for a computer-assisted design technician to work at Ark Encounter. That job post has since been removed, but in the August description, AiG said applicants must submit a “[c]reation belief statement,” as well as “[c]onfirmation of [their] agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.”
That “statement of faith” required potential AiG employees to affirm their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the Bible is literally true. Anyone who doesn’t agree with those statements won’t be considered for the job. (Read more here.)
According to AiG’s own website, “The purpose of the Ark Encounter park is to point people to the only means of salvation from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, who also is the only God-appointed way to escape eternal destruction.”
But after receiving word of the tax-break cutoff, according to AU, “AiG . . . said earlier this week that it would run 16 billboards throughout the state promoting Ark Encounter and attacking ‘intolerant’ groups like AU. AiG also said it bought a 15-second digital video display that will run in New York City’s Times Square.”
AiG feels that it has been attacked unfairly and is being denied its “right” to tax dollars from non-fundamentalist Christian people–the same folks they would bar from employment at the park, no matter what their qualifications.
I have to wonder, What would the politicians of Kentucky, who want to continue the tax breaks, do if a group of Muslim citizens wanted the State to give them tax incentives to establish a park dedicated to Islam? Would you think that the folks at AiG would object?
How do you feel about this? Does AiG have a right to tax dollars? Should all religions have that same right?