Federal Judge Orders Kentucky To Subsidize Creationist Theme Park
Credit: Slate
January 26, 2016

Yonder in Kentucky, creationists have been busy bees building a giant ark and other fun exhibits which they plan to use to show all the homeschooled children how humans roamed the earth beside dinosaurs, among other things.

All of that would be just fine, except now they expect the state of Kentucky to subsidize it, and a federal judge has ordered the state to do just that.

The owner of the park refuses to comply with state non-discrimination statutes, which is why the state pulled the tax subsidies away.

The state of Kentucky must give millions of dollars in tax subsidies to a Noah’s Ark theme park owned by a creationist ministry, even though that ministry refuses to comply with the state’s request not to engage in hiring discrimination, according to an opinion by a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench. Under Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove’s opinion, the creationist group Answers in Genesis (AiG) stands to gain up to $18 million


Though Kentucky officials were initially enthusiastic about providing these subsidies to help fund the Ark Encounter, they later reversed course citing fears that the state constitution does not permit tax incentives to be used to “advance religion,” as well as concerns that AiG “intends to discriminate in hiring its employees based on religion.” AiG sued, alleging various First Amendment theories.

Well, that's cheeky of them. They want to fall back on the First Amendment as an excuse for discrimination, but want the state to give them millions of dollars in tax subsidies to keep their enterprise running. And Federal Judge Van Tatenhove agrees.

Judge Van Tatenhove’s decision in favor of AiG is on much shakier ground, however, when he claims that AiG is entitled to the subsidy even if it wants to engage in employment discrimination. He roots this decision largely in a non-sequitur about what AiG’s obligations would be if they were sued by an employee alleging discrimination. As the judge notes, federal law exempts “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” from the federal ban on employment discrimination “with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.” Thus, a religious group like AiG typically has the right to hire only members of a particular faith without having to face a federal lawsuit.

Take this one up the appellate chain fast, or we're going to see a lot more of this creative blending of church and state, particularly in the states that can least afford it.

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