11/26/2014 12:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Freedom From Religion Foundation Urges IRS to investigate Ark Encounter


The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the IRS urging them to investigate Ken Ham's Ark Encounter. The letter alleges that Ham has continuously attempted to run a for-profit business behind his non-profit in order to benefit from as many tax breaks and discriminatory practices as possible.

In an email the FFRF states:

Answers in Genesis (AiG) is a Christian fundamentalist group that advocates a literal interpretation of the bible, and owns the Creation Museum. Through a subsidiary nonprofit, it also owns Ark Encounter, a for-profit LLC, and has fundraised extensively for the park.

Donations to AiG, a nonprofit, are tax deductible, while donations directly to Ark Encounter, a for-profit company, would not be. But AiG fundraising materials include a space for donations to Ark Encounter, and note that donations are "tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law." On the AiG website, donors have the option to designate contributions to Ark Encounter.

A separate Ark Encounter website also states that sponsorship is tax deductible.

Thus it appears that AiG is taking tax-deductible donations and directly giving them to Ark Encounter, LLC, noted FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott.

Nonprofits can run for-profit companies that are related to a charitable purpose, including a religious purpose. But, in order to obtain tax breaks, AiG has taken great pains to assure the state of Kentucky and other government entities that Ark Encounter will be operated as a private, for-profit business. The Ark Encounter website admits, "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."

This is alongside allegations of employment discrimination in which AiG is hiring Ark Encounter employees under the non-profit in order to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring.

The FFRF email continues:

"Answers in Genesis cannot have it both ways," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Either the Ark Encounter is a religious enterprise and is eligible for tax-exempt donations, or AiG and Ark Encounter can be taken at their word that the park is purely a commercial enterprise." In the latter case, then AiG is not "'operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific' or other exempt purposes," as required for exempt status, and should lose its tax exemption, FFRF contends.

"While religiously themed, a 'theme park' is quintessentially a commercial entertainment activity and not charitable," wrote Elliott. "Ark Encounter representatives have said that from an operational standpoint, the project will 'have the look and feel of any other theme park.' "

"Based on information that is publicly available about the operations of both organizations, they are not operated exclusively for exempt purposes," concluded Elliott, asking the IRS to investigate the operations and tax-exempt status of AiG.

Ham is continuously crossing the line and hiding behind his religion in order to cry persecution when being asked to follow the law. Now with both Americans United for the Separation of Church and State as well as FFRF on the case, Ham's days of exploiting tax laws may be numbered.

I join the FFRF in urging the IRS to investigate these claims, it is their duty as an organization to do so.

Article written by Dan Arel on Danthropology