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If You Build It: Battle Between Kentucky and Noah’s Ark Builder Continues

December 19th, 2015

_DSC4265 HDRIn a lawsuit that was filed over the summer, a religious group in Kentucky is claiming that the State owes it money that it had originally promised, but then rescinded. The questions that will be decided during the litigation will call into question one of the oldest disputes in our country’s history: Where is the line drawn between religious freedom and the prohibition of government sponsorship of religion?

The Project

The organization behind the project calls itself Answers in Genesis and is a self-described “apologetic ministry” that is “dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively.” They believe that their goals and mission will be furthered by the building of a $90 million Noah’s Ark and theme park attraction complete with plans for future expansion.  Most of the funding for the project has so far come from private donations, so some may wonder where exactly is the controversy? It seems that state officials did not believe that it was apparent at first, as the State of Kentucky initially agreed to provide the project with approximately $18 million in tax incentives. However, once the religious group posted a somewhat troubling employment advertisement, the State began to question whether it had done the right thing and revoked the tax incentives. The group is now suing to have those incentives returned to them and is arguing that the State is trampling the right of their members to religious freedom and expression.

The Law

It has been well established in the United States that the Constitution provides protection over individuals and groups who gather and practice a myriad of religious beliefs across the country every day. It is equally as established that the government at all levels (local, state, and federal) is strictly forbidden from establishing or indicating a preference for religion. The latter prohibition is where the phrase “separation of church and state” comes from, and it essentially means that we as a diverse group of citizens can rest assured that our government will not make decisions that affect us based on their religious tenets. Our founding fathers determined that the threat from overreaching religious powers was too great to allow any group to hold power over our leaders, and history has arguably proven our founders to be fairly wise in that regard.  

The Rub

The reason that ultimately led to the State rescinding the award, however, is allegedly because the job posting mentioned earlier specifically stated that all applicants would be required to provide “salvation testimony, a creation belief statement,” and agree with the religious group’s statement of faith.

Some may ask, given the absolute prohibition on government-sponsored religion, why the State of Kentucky was providing taxpayer money to the project at all? The answer is no doubt a complex one as some opponents of the lawsuit argue that it never should have considered it in the first place. Time will tell how the court will rule and how far this battle will go before it reaches a conclusion.

As this case winds its way through Kentucky’s court system and beyond, if necessary, the Universal Life Church will watch and report any developments as they may affect all citizens’ Constitutional freedoms.

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