First up from the God Machine this week is a story out of Kentucky that we’ve been watching for years, about a controversial theme park that’s subsidized by taxpayers, but which is nevertheless openly discriminating in its hiring.
The Kentucky Associated Press reported, “Want to serve food or operate rides at Kentucky’s new Noah’s Ark attraction? Then you must first pledge your Christianity.”
The theme park will be searching for 300 to 400 workers to fill food service, ticketing and other theme park-related positions at the 510-foot long Ark Encounter before it opens in July and Ken Ham, founder of the ministry Answers in Genesis, says employees will be required to sign a statement saying they’re Christian and “profess Christ as their savior.”The religious group, which will run the ark’s operations, won a federal court ruling in January that clarified that it can make religious-based hires even as it seeks a Kentucky tourism tax incentive worth millions.
Ken Ham said last week that he’s “requiring” employees to be Christians, even if their specific jobs have nothing to do with religion.
A report from Raw Story added job seekers must submit a “creation belief statement” and “salvation testimony” before being hired, in addition to endorsing the official Answers in Genesis “Statement of Faith,” which among other things, dictates that the planet is roughly 6,000 years old.
On Twitter, Ken Ham wrote, “Secular media think it’s big news that a Christian organization with a specific Christian purpose @ArkEncounter will employ Christians -DUH!”
And while that may not seem controversial, this story is a little different. As longtime readers may recall, the Answers in Genesis ministry sought and received taxpayer support for the project, and state officials, in the name of boosting tourism, approved $18 million in tax subsidies to bolster the theme park’s finances.
The state of Kentucky pulled back, however, after it learned that Ark Encounter intended to discriminate in hiring. If the ministry wants taxpayer money, the state said, it can’t discriminate against the same taxpayers supporting the project.
Answers in Genesis took the matter to court, arguing that Kentucky was discriminating against the ministry because the group wants to discriminate. Inexplicably, a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush ruled in the ministry’s favor, ordering the state to subsidize employment discrimination.
Maybe this will be reversed on appeal? Actually, no – because new Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) likes the ruling and has no interest in challenging it.
And so, the theme park will discriminate against Kentucky residents, even as Kentucky residents help pay for the theme park.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Tennessee “will not become the first state in the nation to make the Holy Bible its official book after an effort to override Gov. Bill Haslam’s veto failed to receive enough support in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. With a 43-50 vote, the House failed to give the Senate a chance to vote to override Haslam’s veto.”
* Seems appropriate: “It’s got the look … of a moving tribute. University United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, paid homage to Prince on Thursday by including lyrics from his song ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ on its sign.”
* One of my favorite “This Week in God” stories of 2016 so far: “When New Zealand approved The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – whose followers are known as Pastafarians – to officiate marriages, we knew it was just a matter of time until we saw beautiful photos of Pastafarian weddings. That day has arrived.”