Thursday, June 29, 2017

Talk about Quick Change . . . it's a Ministry . . . No, It's a For-Profit Tourist Attraction . . . no, it's a Ministry . . .

Let's review a bit of history, the Ark Park, officially 'Ark Encounters, LLC', is a for-profit corporation.  This allowed them to push for public tax breaks and funding requests, which they received mostly because of Republican politicians.

So, when it comes to hiring practices, this for-profit business is being allowed to discriminate and hire based on religious beliefs.  If it wasn't for those pandering politicians, this would have ended their public tax breaks and funding.  If you don't think that was one of the reasons for the for-profit LLC, this is from the Ark Encounters own Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page . . . or it used to be.  For some reason lots of it is missing from the current FAQ.  But there is this website, the Wayback Machine.  It archives many webpages and it just so happens to have saved the originals from the Ark sites.  Here is a quote:

"The for-profit LLC structure also allows the Ark Encounter to be eligible for various economic development incentives that would not have been available with a non-profit structure."
Interesting, one of the reasons for going this route was specifically for those tax breaks and other incentives.

However the local community, specifically Grant County, Ky, is in the middle of a serious financial crisis and the hopes that all the visitors to the ark park would bail them out has not materialized.  So the county took steps and imposed a $0.50 tax on entertainment tickets -- called a 'safety tax' -- on on attractions like the ark park.  The purpose of this tax is for emergency services -- you know the kind services that might be needed if lightening does to kennie's ark what it did to Big-Butter Jesus in 2010.

Little kennie ham whined about that already -- we mentioned it in "Greedy Shepherd Annoyed that the Sheared Sheep are Making Noise".  Well now we know their more formal response.  Apparently little kennie and company are requesting an exemption from the entertainment tax on the grounds that they are a ministry.  The Grant County News reported it: "Ark Encounter requests safety fee exemption".
"Skinner and the other councilmembers voiced their disagreement with the exemption request; with councilman Kim Crupper noting that the Ark Encounter operates on a for-profit status. City Attorney Jeff Shipp added that the organization’s corporate filings in Missouri indicate that they are a for-profit corporation. "
To back that up, here are another two quotes from the 'Wayback Machine'.  As usual, I underlined the most interesting bits:
"Why is the project so big, and why is a for-profit LLC going to own the Ark Encounter? 
Because feasibility studies revealed that the Ark would attract 1.6 million guests in the first year, the project needed to be much more than just the Ark alone to handle the anticipated crowds. Accordingly, eight additional biblically themed attractions were included in the Ark Encounter complex to accommodate all of the expected guests.Due to the size of the Ark Encounter project, a for-profit LLC structure was selected to be able to help raise the approximately $150 million necessary to build it ($125 million of that total will come through investments). We also desired to avoid financing the project through debt. In addition, this large amount of funding would not have been probable solely through donations. The for-profit LLC structure allows for the primary funding to come from private equity investment, while at the same time ensuring that the control of the content, design, and operations of the Ark Encounter will be led by Crosswater Canyon, a wholly owned subsidiary of Answers in Genesis. . . ."
"Is this a non-profit endeavor? 
In a sense, the Ark Encounter is both a for-profit and not-for-profit endeavor. The Ark Encounter is a for-profit operation but is managed by a non-profit subsidiary ministry of Answers in Genesis. The LLC and its members will be responsible for all of the normal taxes required for pass-through business entities."
The good news, at least for now, is the county is standing their ground and reminding kennie that the ark park is not officially a ministry, but a for-profit corporation and therefore plans to reject the requested exemption.  Hopefully they will stick to their guns.  While kennie's legal beagle agreed it is a for-profit company, he said that if the exemption is not approved that the ark park is "considering their options".  In some ways I hope they push it to the courts.

I know, I know the odds of Kentucky actually enforcing its own laws on kennie and his ark park are slim, but there is always a chance the people of Kentucky might get a break and realize that not only is the park a ministry, but the tax breaks and other funding help they received should never have happened, especially in the light of them being a for-profit business.  So if the ruling is it IS a ministry, pull the state and county support -- including going back and getting fair value for the things already given based on the for-profit status.  If it is ruled a for-profit business, demand kennie comply with state and federal hiring practices and insure  . . . as originally agreed . . . that the park pays its normal taxes, which would include this 'safety tax'.

This is kennie being kennie.  'I'm a ministry, protect me . . . no, wait, I'm a for-profit business, give me tax breaks . . .'  He wants tax breaks and funding of a for-profit business, but he wants the legal protections for a religious non-profit that allow him to discriminate in his hiring practices -- after promising not to do so and avoid paying taxes -- even taxes designed to fund services he may need.  He seems to switch coats as it pleases him, and he looks nothing like Marie Antoinette.

No comments:

Post a Comment