State of Kentucky to Christian Organization: Don’t Share Your Faith

Posted on January 6, 2015 in Religious Freedom by

AIG Ark EncounterThe state of Kentucky is trying to force the Christian organization Answers in Genesis (AIG) to hire non-Christians for their new Ark Encounter attraction. That is the claim of AIG president Ken Ham in a new video that accuses the state of backtracking on a previous agreement to honor state and federal law which allows religious preference in hiring.

The issue first came up when AIG applied for a sales tax refund. Atheist groups protested the states consideration in granting the tax incentive saying it was an endorsement of religion. When the state granted the tax incentive the protests grew. But when AIG was asked to resubmit their application for the tax incentive for procedural reasons, the state, seemingly, pulled a bait and switch on AIG. Ham says:

“As we reapplied for the incentive, the state surprised us with two conditions not found anywhere in the law. That is, one, we can’t show religious preference in our hiring, and two, we couldn’t share our faith at the ark.”

Upset over this demand by the state, AIG supporters have claimed the state is engaging in religious discrimination and persecution against AIG. Some even say this action by the state is at the behest of atheists in order to placate their protest. I don’t have any idea why the state is acting as it is, but some things need to be considered here.

First, from the beginning the state has known that AIG is building a Christian attraction for the purpose of sharing a Christian message with those that visit. Of course Kentucky would want AIG to build in the state rather than, say, across the river in Ohio. Kentucky stands to gain a lot of money in tourist visits and tourist revenue from the people that visit the Ark Encounter. So it’s no surprise that Kentucky would want AIG to build in the state and do everything they can to make that happen.

But telling a Christian organization, building a Christian themed attraction for the purpose of sharing a Christian message that they can neither prefer to hire Christian people nor share their faith is absurd.

It would be similar to telling an atheist group that they can’t prefer to hire atheists or share the messages of Darwin and Carl Sagan.

Then again, the kind of hiring practices the state is demanding AIG not engage in, are the same hiring practices every other organization in the state with a purpose engages in. Think about it, do you think the state of Kentucky has every told Planned Parenthood that it cannot prefer to hire people that support abortion – that they have to hire people that are anti-abortion? Do you think they have ever told an atheist group that they have to hire Christians or other people of faith? Of course not.

The reality is that groups hire based on the stated goals of their organization every day. It’s why in many hiring processes and interviews there is something in there about understanding and agreeing with the stated goals of the group. Because no one wants to hire someone only to find out that they stand against everything the group stands for.

Can you imagine being forced to hire an atheist to lead your Ark Encounter tour? “And if you look this way you will see a reconstruction of a fictional fairytale from a book no one really believes anymore.” Oh yeah, that will work out really well.

So of course AIG has the right to prefer to hire people that adhere to AIG’s goals – including the faith AIG puts at the center of all that it does. This is essentially what Ken Ham said in a video about this situation where he made this statement:

“The state’s new conditions are clearly illegal. We can cite both federal and state laws that permit religious preference in hiring, like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That’s why atheists groups can and do discriminate in their hiring.”

What!? The atheist groups upset over preference in hiring practice the same preference in hiring? But that would make them hypocrites for being upset at AIG for wanting to do the same thing they are doing. Why is it acceptable for an atheist group to receive public funds and practice preferential hiring but it’s not okay for AIG to do the same?

The fact that the state wants to try and keep AIG from sharing it’s faith with people who visit the Ark Encounter is equally troubling. This is a Christian organization with a stated goal of sharing the Gospel with others. That has never been hidden from the state and only now that atheists and others are complaining, is the state making this demand.

The reason this is troubling is the precedent it could set for every other organization. If the state can determine what an organization is allowed to share in order to receive public funds every organization is in trouble. Ken Ham notes:

“This employment issue is a matter of great importance not only to every Christian organization, to every church that doesn’t want to give in to demands from the government to hire non-Christians. In fact, every religious organization should be worried about what the state of Kentucky is trying to do.”

Indeed every religious organization and, I would say, every church, should be concerned with what Kentucky is seeking to do. If AIG is forced to comply with these demands then so will faith based charities, schools, and other organizations.

Our society has forgotten that faith is not something relegated to the pews and churches. Faith is something that is and should be exercised in public. Our Founder’s encouraged public Bible reading, prayer, and church services. To say that they wanted all religious activity to be kept in churches is to be ignorant of history and the faith of our Founders.

It will be interesting to see what Kentucky does. Will they demand that AIG comply with these requirements in order to receive public money? Will Kentucky then exercise equal and fair demands over atheist and other groups? Do the atheist groups complaining know that once a state has the right to make these demands over faith based groups that they will also make the same demands of other groups – like theirs?

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