A religious freedom law, similar to the one that has recently drawn national attention in Indiana, has been on the books in Kentucky for two years and is currently being used as an argument to sue the state.
The proprietors of the Ark Encounter project in Northern Kentucky are suing state Tourism Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart and Gov. Steve Beshear for excluding the 500-foot-long Noah’s Ark replica from a tourism tax break.
In the lawsuit, the proprietors of the project, Answers in Genesis, say that the state discriminated against the ministry under the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act by pulling a promised $18 million in tax incentives.
The state withdrew funding, saying that public dollars couldn’t go to a project that hires employees based on religious background.
University of Kentucky law professor Scott Bauries said the religious freedom law allows the plaintiffs to argue that the state discriminated against them.
“Because the state of Kentucky seeks to hold them to a higher standard than what the ordinary anti-discrimination laws would hold them to—and because it doesn’t seek to do that with any non-religious employers—that it’s discriminating against them based on their religion,” Bauries said.
Under federal and state anti-discrimination laws, religious employers are allowed to hire “coreligionists” if doing so furthers the religious purpose of the organization.