Why Do Religious Groups Get Your Tax Money to Preach and Discriminate?

Aug 5, 2014

By Dan Arel

It’s not new for federal and state governments to issue tax breaks and incentives to religious organizations. In fact, George W. Bush and his famous “faith based initiatives” program gave certain religious organizations tax breaks if they performed non-religious duties, followed employment laws, and offered a service not based on a recipient’s religious beliefs.

So, if your religious organization feeds the homeless, does not proselytize to those receiving its services and does not discriminate against employees who do not share the same religious beliefs as the organization, the government may give it a tax incentive for its services.

Unfortunately, this has not always worked out as planned, and neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has taken action regarding the many claims of proselytizing and employee discrimination. Organizations continue to take advantage of both federal and state incentives and often do so while holding those who receive their services and those who work with them to a religious test, or force them to sit through sermons of some kind before offering them the benefits.

One continued offender is Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, a museum that is run by Ham’s evangelical apologist organization Answers in Genesis.

In 2011, Kentucky awarded the museum $43 million in tax credits for an expansion project called the Ark Encounter, an amusement park focusing on the legend of Noah’s Ark. However, this $43 million tax break was not enough for the museum, which has yet to break ground on the new exhibit. It has now applied for an $18 million tax incentive from Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

According to the Louisville paper, the Courier-Journal:

Three years ago, the group won approval of incentives for its entire $172.5 million project, but because of funding problems it withdrew that application and is seeking approval for a $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park.

Now the museum claims it is ready to break if it can get the new $18 million incentive, the Courier Journal reports:

Ark Encounter is applying to participate in a program that allows eligible tourism attractions a rebate of 25 percent of the sales tax they collect on admission tickets, souvenirs, food and other things over ten years. For this application the rebates would be as much as $18.25 million.

Yet the museum has never provided sufficient proof that it is a tourist attraction of value to the state, or even a museum at all; it has not been accepted by the American Alliance of Museums and scientists have long argued the museum is nothing more than religious propaganda.

The purpose of the museum is clearly to proselytize to its visitors and show them the evangelical explanation for life on Earth as portrayed in the Bible. The Ark Encounter is no different. The intent is to bring in guests and preach to them about a biblical fable with the hope of persuading visitors of its truth.

This violates all church and state separation. No tax dollars should ever go to an organization that’s not setting out to help or offer a service to visitors, but instead has a clear goal of converting its visitors. Actual museums offer culture and education to their visitors; the Creation Museum offers neither.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has said it will sue the state if the incentives are granted.

“It’s a religiously themed project with potentially evangelical overtones, and therefore it would erode the separation of church and state for it to receive any money from the taxpayers,” said Sarah Jones, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Creation Museum is not the first organization to come under fire for such use of tax incentives.

Earlier this year the Salvation Army, which is a registered evangelical church, entered a settlement over a 2009 case in which 19 plaintiffs made up of former employees sued the organization for wrongful termination after the religious beliefs of the employees were brought into question.

9 comments on “Why Do Religious Groups Get Your Tax Money to Preach and Discriminate?

  • @OP- Why Do Religious Groups Get Your Tax Money to Preach and Discriminate?

    I think it goes back to the middle ages when the churches supported the feudal lords, and the feudal lords saw to it that the churches were well paid to do so. A sort of establishment division of peasants into body-slaves and mind-slaves supporting the two elites!


    A tithe barn was a type of barn used in much of northern Europe in the Middle Ages for storing tithes—one tenth of a farm’s produce which was given to the Church. Tithe barns were usually associated with the village church or rectory and independent farmers took their tithes there. The village priests wouldn’t have to pay tithes—the purpose of the tithe being their support—and some had their own farms anyway, which are now village greens in some villages.


    The Tithe War (Irish: Cogadh na nDeachúna) was a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience, punctuated by sporadic violent episodes, in Ireland between 1830 and 1836 in reaction to the enforcement of tithes on subsistence farmers and others for the upkeep of the established state church – the Church of Ireland. Tithes were payable in cash or kind and payment was compulsory, irrespective of an individual’s religious adherence.

    Didn’t anyone wonder where the money came from to build those grandiose cathedrals?

    Report abuse

  • Didn’t anyone wonder where the money came from to build those grandiose cathedrals?

    I did a 12 week drive around Europe and UK / Ireland. One of the things that sticks in my mind while cruising through the country, was coming over a crest, and seeing a modest village or town, which always had a huge church / cathedral building, so overwhelmingly out of scale with the rest of the buildings that I wondered about the power exerted to take resources and build such buildings. Everyone I saw was an indictment of religious kindness.

    And Sue Blue. I love your statement

    Religion: The world’s oldest and most successful scam.

    and I intend to drop it often in conversation.

    Report abuse

  • I do not want to fly under a “false flag” and so I am stating until more people get to know me in this community that I am an evangelical Christian. I have a background in science and value it. I have also spent a great deal of time reading history and trying to make sense of things. With that having been said, the overwhelming size of many medieval churches does reflect the scams going on back in those days. If you didn’t tithe, you were going to Hell. If you didn’t work on the church fields, you were going to Hell. I think you get the picture. And, of course, you have lots of people today making money off of religious folks by inducing fear in them. Anyone interested in a short description of the role of the medieval church in towns, can go online to: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/medieval_church.htm

    Report abuse

  • Hi david.graf.589

    welcome to the site, look forward to debating with you;) Out of interest, what brings you to the site site your interest in science or knowing what the other side of your beliefs are thinking?

    I am technically comfortable with churches receiving money for any charitable works they do (without proselytising) in the same sense I am comfortable with nuclear power (current technology-not thorium or fission). That is I know it can happen without harm in theory, it’s just the fact that it often doesn’t in practice because it is being run by humans.

    It doesn’t take much of a look back in history to see examples of misuse in-spite of what we actually know. The Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight is a case in point. Airlines often make mistakes (take calculated risks) by flying over places they really should avoid to save money on fuel. Of course passengers should realise when they shop for the cheapest airline tickets that they way they get cheap is often through a whole host of little cost cutting exercises which result bit by bit in your odds of survival dropping quite dramatically. They got caught out (and many other airlines at the time didn’t).

    Back to tax benefits, this is happening because the majority of religious people don’t see the danger because they (although they disagree with each other on many aspects of Christianity) don’t see that they cannot apply these allowances to them (Christians). I’m just waiting for the uproar in the media here in Australia when a Muslim Chaplin gets into a predominantly white middle class public school. Christian congregations are largely aging in the traditional churches and while there are well populated younger groups in the mega-churches their populations are largely transitory. Some Christians I know are starting to see the benefits of a secular state perhaps largely out of bigotry and some hypocrisy but there you have it, some progress but not alas among the majority.

    Report abuse

  • @Alan4Discussion

    Didn’t anyone wonder where the money came from to build those grandiose cathedrals?

    I hadn’t thought about the materials used, but I always assumed the locals would have been press-ganged into providing the labour. I imagine they would have done their stint after a long day’s toil in the field, at threat of excommunication. The fact that many cathedrals fell to the ground as they were constructed on a trial-and-error basis would have compounded the folly of their construction. That’s what I see when looking through these grand buildings. I’m not filled with wonder and awe but instead think of those little people exploited in the process.

    Report abuse

  • @david.graf.589
    Hi. Thanks for providing the link. I’m glad that people with a contrary opinion see fit to post comments. We need an alternative view to provide fodder for our arguments. (I’m not suggesting that in any mean-spirited way, but simply stating the obvious.) I hope you feel welcome.

    Report abuse

  • 8
    Mormon Atheist says:

    I support religious freedom and person’s right to believe in what they want, but I am always astounded at the lack of separation between church and state. Tax breaks for religion is such complete bullshit and if that’s not enough we subsidize a lot of their other projects as well. Why does religious belief always have to be so ostentatious?

    Report abuse

  • The answer to the question is twofold: emotional blackmail and a con-trick.

    A form of intimidation similar to that applied by the RCC to extract money from penitents under the guise that said payments would earn them remittance from their time in purgatory.

    Once the baton of religion is taken up, instead of it being slung straight out of the window when it’s first proffered, one is increasingly entangled in weird nonsensical mumbo-jumbo, and induced to stop thinking for oneself.

    The most tragic aspect of which is that the religious fluke is implanted in the brains of young children.

    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.