Will Atheists and Muslims Be Staffing The “Ark Encounter”?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the proposed “Ark Encounter” theme park in Kentucky being built by the Creationist group Answers in Genesis with the help of millions of dollars tax breaks.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has received a lot of criticism for using government money to help construct a religiously-themed theme park, but Beshear’s response has consistently been that he views it as an economic investment that will create an estimated 900 jobs and bring in millions in future tax revenue.

And as an economic project being funded with public money, Beshear is insisting that the Ark Encounter’s operators will not be able to discriminate in the hiring process … a prospect which does not seem to be sitting too well with developers, who admit that they are “wrestling” with the prospect of not being allowed to require employees to sign a statement of faith:

Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday that he will require the state’s contract with developers of a Noah’s Ark-based theme park in Northern Kentucky to prohibit the project from receiving state tax incentives if there is discrimination in hiring based on religion or other attributes.

In a meeting with The Courier-Journal’s editorial board, Beshear said that he views the theme park as a job creation venture rather than a religious one and that he expects the group building it to comply with federal and state laws that bar discrimination.

The group proposing the theme park includes for-profit investors and the nonprofit Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum in Boone County. After the project is completed the plan is to turn over control of the theme park to Answers in Genesis, which will operate it.

“We’re going to require that anybody that we deal with is going to obey all of the laws on hiring and not discriminate on hiring,” Beshear said. “As a matter of fact, part of the language that will be in agreements … is that they are going to abide by the law in terms of hiring and that they agree not to discriminate, so we will certainly have the ability to deal with it if we find that it happens.”

When the project was announced two weeks ago, Cary Summers, who heads the for-profit portion of the development team, was asked if the theme park would require a “statement of faith” like the one required for employment by Answers in Genesis.

“We’re wrestling with that right now,” he said.

Summers said in an interview Thursday that the group has no intention of trying to discriminate, especially in view of the large number of people who will have to be hired. Mike Zovath, the vice president of Answers in Genesis, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Under state law, religious organizations are allowed to discriminate based on beliefs in hiring for work associated with their religious activities.