The company behind a Noah's Ark-themed amusement park in Kentucky could lose a lucrative tourism tax break due to the park's proposed hiring practices. Ark Encounter, LLC, stands to lose $18.25 million in tax incentives because of "language in the park's job application that requires 'salvation testimony' and a 'Creation belief statement,'" according to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority unanimously gave preliminary approval of the $18.25 million tax credit back in July. At the time, msnbc's Lawrence O'Donnell called that an example of "one of this country's stupidest forms of socialism: government handouts to private companies." O'Donnell went on to say that these types of tax incentives are typically justified by the "never-provable notion that the company will generate enough economic activity in the state."
In a letter from August 27, Kentucky's top tourism official told attorneys for Ark Encounter that requiring a religious litmus test from potential hires would be against both state and federal hiring laws. The exchange of letters between state officials and Ark Encounter's legal representation was obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader through Kentucky's Open Records Act.
At issue, is an online job post for a computer technician tasked with working on the ark. That post was listed on the website for Answers in Genesis, Ark Encounter's parent company which also owns the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., the Herald-Leader reports. The job post reportedly included information that the position would require applicants agree to the aforementioned "salvation testimony" and "Creation belief statement."
In the letters obtained by the Herald-Leader, attorneys for the ark park argued that posted job was for an Answers in Genesis position, not a position with Ark Encounter, so that should not factor into the state's issuance of tax credits. In that letter Ark Encounter's attorneys also stated that the company would adhere to state requirements in order to receive the tax incentives.
A call by msnbc to Ark Encounter attorney James Parsons was not immediately returned. However, Ark Encounter's Executive President Mike Zovath told Reuters on Wednesday, "We're hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn't go further than this."
But the state's tourism office does not appear likely to change course. Gil Lawson, communications director for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, told Reuters, "We expect all of the companies that get tax incentives to obey the law."
The job posting is no longer on the Answers in Genesis site which now instructs those seeking employment with Ark Encounter to go to that company's website. An incomplete FAQ section on the Ark Encounter site includes an as-yet unanswered question reading, "Can I work for the Ark Encounter?" No other employment details could be found.
Additional reporting by Melissa Ryerson.