LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Want to serve food or operate rides at Kentucky's new Noah's Ark attraction? Then you must first pledge your Christianity.
The theme park will be searching for 300 to 400 workers to fill food service, ticketing and other theme park-related positions at the 510-foot long Ark Encounter before it opens in July and Ken Ham, founder of the ministry Answers in Genesis, says employees will be required to sign a statement saying they're Christian and "profess Christ as their savior."
The religious group, which will run the ark's operations, won a federal court ruling in January that clarified that it can make religious-based hires even as it seeks a Kentucky tourism tax incentive worth millions.
"We are a religious group and we make no apology about that, and (federal law) allows us that," Ham said Thursday. "We're requiring them to be Christians, that's the bottom line."
U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove ruled that an exemption to the 1964 Civil Rights Act allows the group to have a religious requirement for employment. The case stemmed from Answers in Genesis seeking a tourism sales tax rebate, estimated to be worth up to $18 million.
Answers in Genesis has rankled educators and scientists with its promotion of a literal reading of biblical stories like Noah's. Its nearby Creation Museum, which opened a decade ago, preaches that the earth is around 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve roamed the earth alongside dinosaurs.
The group Americans United For Separation of Church and State said Judge Van Tatenhove wrongly interpreted the law in his ruling. New Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a conservative Christian, has said the administration will not appeal it.
Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society and a longtime critic of the Creation Museum, wondered if non-evangelical Christians, like Catholics, would be allowed to work at the ark.
"Catholics tend not to be fundamentalist Christians, they don't tend to take things literally," Phelps said.
Ham said the statement signed by future ark employees won't distinguish between Christian denominations.
"There are Christians in all sorts of different denominations. So as long as they sign that, it doesn't specify in there whether you're Protestant or Catholic or Baptist or Presbyterian or whatever," Ham said.
He said the group has hired a human resources firm to handle hiring for the ark, and job postings should go up in the next week or so. The Ark Encounter opening is July 7.