TIME Religion

Pope Francis Gives Stern Talking to Vatican Bureaucracy

Pope Francis delivers his blessing at the end of an audience with Italian athletes in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Giampiero Sposito—Reuters Pope Francis delivers his blessing at the end of an audience with Italian athletes in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 19, 2014.

“Sometimes [officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ – superior to everyone and everything”

Pope Francis had some blunt criticism for Vatican bureaucrats on Monday. In prepared remarks Monday, the Pope urged Roman Curia officials to remember their duty to serve in charity and love.

“Sometimes, [officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ – superior to everyone and everything,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

READ MORE How Pope Francis Helped Broker Cuba Deal

“The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfill its mission,” he added. “But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses.”

The AP reports that “few were smiling” during the Pope’s comments.

Read more from the Associated Press.

TIME Religion

Here’s a Secular Alternative to the Ten Commandments

Lex Bayor and John Figdor are the authors of "Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century."

“Pics or it didn’t happen,” the mantra of the Snapchat generation, is a simple but profound reflection of how we think. It reflects a healthy skepticism. If you’re going to claim something unlikely—I made eight 3-pointers in a row, I met Jon Stewart at Starbucks, or I was dealt a royal flush in online poker and won a thousand bucks—you better have some good evidence to back it up.

Earlier this year, the Christian polling organization The Barna Group shocked the Christian world by producing research showing that 38% of Americans were essentially secular, a category they called “the unchurched.” The category, which describes people who “do not participate in activities such as believing in God, attending church or reading the Bible,” shows that nearly two in five Americans live essentially nonreligious lives. These numbers are consistent with findings from Gallup and Pew showing that one-third of people under 30 are nonreligious and that coastal cities like San Francisco and Boston are 45% nonreligious.

But as happens with the increased prominence of any minority group, widespread misinformation and bigotry is being spread about nonbelievers. In 2010, Pope Benedict erroneously blamed the Holocaust on atheists, and just this year, Louisiana Congressional candidate Zach Dasher falsely blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on atheists. With this sort of misinformation and prejudice, it isn’t surprising to find conservative Christian critics dismayed about the rise of the nonbelievers and the decline of Christianity in modern America.

What is driving the trend toward secularism? Given the beliefs of the “pics or it didn’t happen” generation, it isn’t hard to see why the traditional religious worldview, which advocates for “faith in things unseen,” is becoming less popular. Should we really take it on faith that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that evolution is false or possibly a conspiracy, or that prayer is more powerful than medicine?

Natural skepticism is an important component of the nonreligious view of life. In our view, belief should not only follow the evidence but be proportional to it. This is one of the most important “non-commandments” that we discuss and explain in Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century. The book is about the positive beliefs and values of the nonreligious and guides readers in establishing their own set of personal beliefs. We wrote it to answer the question: “So you don’t believe in God…now what?”

As a Humanist Chaplain serving the community at Stanford University, John meets countless students of this new generation who, after giving up on a belief in God, come to him asking some variation on the question, “What is worth believing in?” Nonbelievers recognize that the scientific method is the best way to understand the natural world, realizing that science has unlocked secrets ranging from the structure of the atom to hereditary traits found in our DNA. We can also apply these critical thinking skills to questions about morality and human behavior. We can look at the contemporary individualistic, Western social model in countries including the United States, and compare it to family-oriented Confucian societies in Asia, or the social democracy model prevalent in Europe.

Faced with the evidence of a multitude of prosperous and harmonious societies with distinctly different moral and ethical systems, many nonreligious people conclude that morality is most likely subjective. The underpinnings of morality stem from the experiences and preferences of real people, not abstract principles or an absolute decree. Our moral compasses—refined through our upbringing, tempered by our society, and informed by our particular experiences, talents, and natural abilities—guide our behavior. Choosing to be moral is a choice motivated by empathy and compassion in our relationships with others and measured more in actions than in words.

While the “rise of nonbelievers” or the “emergence of the unchurched” may be cause for concern for some religious Americans, perhaps existentially so for conservative Christianity, most Americans should be thrilled to have more seculars among us. To help counter the misinformation spread about the nonreligious, sociologist Phil Zuckerman at Pitzer College has compiled some statistics that tell us who they really are. Compared to the general population, Zuckerman finds that nonreligious Americans are younger, more educated, politically independent (though left-leaning), supportive of feminism and gay rights, and strongly opposed to torture and the death penalty.

While there are hundreds if not thousands of books about what atheists don’t believe in, including religion, God, and supernaturalism, there has been comparatively little attention paid to what atheists and humanists do believe. We wrote our book in hopes not only of educating people about the positive beliefs and values of the nonreligious, but also of inspiring other nonbelievers to come out and share their beliefs and values.

To encourage people to introspect about their beliefs, we created the ReThink Prize, and asked people to submit their own beliefs and reasoning for a chance to win one of ten $1,000 prizes. Now that the contest has come to an end, we’re happy to share the wonderful winning beliefs! The winning beliefs addressed themes ranging from personal freedom, to open-mindedness, from critical thinking to compassion and empathy:

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence. (Jeremy Jimenez)

2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true. (Matthew Main)

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world. (Isaiah Jackson)

4. Every person has the right to control of their body. (Chris Lager)

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life. (John Roso)

6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them. (Jamie Andrews)

7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective. (Carol Fly)

8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations. (Michael Marr)

9. There is no one right way to live. (Eli Chisholm)

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it. (Maury McCoy)

Lex Bayor and John Figdor are the authors of “Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart: Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century.”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Meet the Church of England’s First Ever Female Bishop

Reverend Libby Lane poses for pictures during a photo call following the announcement naming her first woman bishop by The Church of England, after a historic change in its rules, in Stockport, northwest England, on Dec. 17, 2014.
Paul Ellis—AFP/Getty Images Reverend Libby Lane poses for pictures during a photo call following the announcement naming her first woman bishop by The Church of England, after a historic change in its rules, in Stockport, northwest England, on Dec. 17, 2014.

In a historic move, Reverend Libby Lane is the first woman in England to be named a bishop

The Church of England’s stained-glass ceiling has been smashed at last.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Elizabeth Lane was named as the first female bishop in the Church of England, just a month after the church made a change to its canon law to allow female bishops. Beginning on Jan. 26, Lane will serve as Bishop of Stockport, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Chester.

The Church of England first allowed female priests in 1992 and the battle to have female bishops began shortly after. Female bishops are already common in the Anglican churches in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, but in the Church of England traditionalists argued that only men should serve in the role of bishops, claiming it was sanctioned by scripture. Others argued that allowing female bishops was ethical and necessary to keep the church relevant. In July, the church’s legislative body, known as the General Synod, voted to allow female bishops and formally enacted a change to canon law in late November.

So who is the woman who will be the Church of England’s first female bishop?

Lane — who goes by “Libby” — was ordained as a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994 after being educated at the University of Oxford and trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, a theological college at Durham University in north-east England. Since 2010 she has been the Dean of Women in Ministry for the diocese of Chester, a post created to support other women within the church. As a bishop’s selection advisor since 2003, she has spent the last ten years making recommendations to the church about candidates offering themselves for ordination.

Speaking at a town hall on Wednesday in Stockport, Lane said that it was a “remarkable day for me and a historic day for the Church.” She continued: “On this historic day as the Church of England announces the first woman nominated to be bishop I am very conscious of all those who have gone before me, women and men, who for decades have looked forward to this moment.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has backed the push for women bishops. He issued a statement about Lane’s appointment on Wednesday, saying: “Her Christ-centered life, calmness and clear determination to serve the Church and the community make her a wonderful choice. She will be bishop in a diocese that has been outstanding in its development of people, and she will make a major contribution.”

Lane’s appointment, which was approved by the Queen, was also endorsed by the U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who congratulated Lane in a statement on Wednesday, saying: “This is an historic appointment and an important step forward for the Church towards greater equality in its senior positions.”

While Lane’s appointment is being lauded as a moment of progress, the church still has a way to go until it reaches gender equality. As the Guardian reports: “About half of female clergy are unpaid. They are also less likely to hold senior positions… [and] only three of the 44 English cathedrals are run by women today and the overwhelming majority of female clergy are not running their own parishes.”

But having a woman bishop is a significant first step. For her part, Lane seems to believe her new role could lead to further appointments for women, telling the Telegraph: “Today I pray will not be simply about one woman called up a new ministry in the church but much more than that, an opportunity to acknowledge all that has gone before and to look ahead to what is still to be done.” It’s that resolve to look to the future that allows other women to believe Lane won’t be the Church of England’s only female bishop.

TIME Religion

Dalai Lama Says He Would Rather Be the Last Than See Someone Stupid Take His Place

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during Ganden Ngachoe, the death anniversary of 14th Century Tibetan Saint-Scholar Lama Tsongkhapa, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.
Tsering Topgyal—AP Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama prays during Ganden Ngachoe, the death anniversary of 14th Century Tibetan Saint-Scholar Lama Tsongkhapa, in New Delhi, India, Dec. 16, 2014.

Buddhists believe that the next Dalai Lama is born when the current one dies

The Dalai Lama has conceded that the title may die with him and that it is “up to the Tibetan people” to decide whether someone follows him. In a BBC interview on Tuesday night, the 79-year-old leader said: “The Dalai Lama institution will cease one day. These man-made institutions will cease.”

“There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama,” he said.

The 14th Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, is the longest serving leader and has held the title since he was 15 years old. Each Dalai Lama is thought to be reincarnated in the body of a male child identified by Buddhist priests in Tibet.

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the current Dalai Lama has been in exile in India ever since an attempted uprising in Tibet in 1959. He now supports a “middle way” with China, hoping for autonomy but not independence for Tibet.


Read next: TIME’s Exclusive With the Dalai Lama on Pot, Facebook and the Pope

TIME Religion

Atheist Organization Decks Billboards With Christmas Jeer

American Atheists, Inc.

"Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church!"

Anti-Christmas billboards have cropped up in five cities across the U.S., as part of an atheist association’s outreach campaign to “in-the-closet” atheists.

“Dear Santa,” reads the text on a roadside billboard in Springdale, Arkansas, “all I want for Christmas is to skip church!”

It’s one of several billboards sponsored by American Atheists, an organization that aims to relieve atheists from social pressure to observe religious holidays.

“Today’s adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed,” said American Atheists President David Silverman in a public statement.

The group has sponsored similar billboards in Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, though the groups says billboard lessors in Jackson, Mississippi denied multiple requests for ad space.

TIME faith

Vatican Report Finds American Nuns are a Graying Workforce

Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images Nuns pray during a mass in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Feb. 28, 2013.

Nuns express "great concern" about declining numbers, average age in mid-70s

American nuns have expressed “great concern” about their aging workforce, according to a Vatican survey released Tuesday that finds nuns in the U.S. are advancing in age and declining in number.

Vatican surveyors sent questionnaires and conducted “sister-to-sister” dialogues at 341 Catholic institutions across the United States. They found that nuns had reached an average age of mid-to-late 70’s, opening up an ever-widening age gap with fresh recruits. The report also noted that the total number of apostolic women, at 50,000, had declined by 125,000 since the the mid-1960s.

“Many sisters expressed great concern during the Apostolic Visitation for the continuation of their charism and mission, because of the numerical decline in their membership,” the Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Religious Women in the United States of America said.

The report also upended expectations that it would take a more critical stance of American nuns for a rising “secular mentality” and “a certain ‘feminist’ spirit,” as one Vatican official warned in 2009, Crux reports.

Instead, the report largely praised American nuns for their “dedicated and selfless service.”


TIME Religion

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Shahada in Sydney Reminds Us That Political Islam Is Deadly

Channel Seven—AFP/Getty Images This screengrab taken from the Australian Channel Seven broadcast shows presumed hostages holding up a flag with Arabic writing inside a cafe in the central business district of Sydney on December 15, 2014.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the founder of the AHA Foundation and the author of Infidel, Nomad, and the forthcoming Heretic: The Case for a Muslim Reformation, to be published next spring.

No symbol represents the soul of Islam more than the Shahada. But today there is a contest within Islam for the ownership of that symbol.

There is still much that we do not know about the Lindt café siege in Sydney. We know that two innocent people are dead: the café manager, Tori Johnson; and barrister and mother of three Katrina Dawson. And we know that the armed man who was holding them and 15 other people hostage, Man Haron Monis, was a self-styled Muslim cleric.

Having been convicted of writing poison-pen letters to the families of fallen Australian servicemen, Monis was clearly no innocent imam. He had recently been charged not only with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife but also with more than 50 instances of indecent and sexual assault.

Yet Monis’ message to the world—emblazoned in Arabic on a black flag held to the window of the Lindt café—was a classic one: “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.” This is the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, and it is the most important of the five pillars of Islam.

An umbrella organization of Muslim groups in Australia was not slow to disavow Monis’ action: “We remind everyone,” they declared, “that the Arabic inscription on the black flag is not representative of a political statement but reaffirms a testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals that represent nobody but themselves.”

To those who recognized the black flag as closely related to the adopted standard of Islamic State, the murderous organization that now controls large tracts of Syria and Iraq—an organization to which Monis claimed to belong—this “reminder” will not quite do.

The shahada may seem a declaration of faith no different from any other to Westerners used to individual freedom of conscience and religion. But as a former Muslim who would dearly love to see Islam reform itself (as Christianity began to do five centuries ago), I disagree. The reality is that the shahada is both a religious and a political symbol.

In the early days of Islam, when Muhammad was going from door to door trying to persuade the polytheists to abandon their idols of worship, he was inviting them to accept that there was no god but Allah and that he was Allah’s messenger, much as Christ had asked the Jews to accept that he was the son of God.

However, after 10 years of trying this kind of persuasion, Muhammad and his small band of believers went to Medina and from that moment, Muhammad’s mission took on a political dimension. Unbelievers were still invited to submit to Allah, but after Medina, they were attacked if they refused. If defeated, they were given the option to either convert or die. (This was the option given to polytheist fellow Arabs. For Christians and Jews—regarded as the people of Holy Scripture, People of the Book—there was a third option: pay a poll tax.)

No symbol represents the soul of Islam more than the shahada. But today there is a contest within Islam for the ownership of that symbol. Who owns the shahada? Is it those Muslims who want to emphasize Muhammad’s years in Mecca or those who are inspired by his conquests after Medina? There are millions upon millions of Muslims who identify themselves with the former. Increasingly, however, they are challenged by fellow believers who want to revive and re-enact the political version of Islam born in Medina. And unfortunately, Western democracies have been all too ready to act as safe havens for the preachers of political Islam.

In Australia, as in all democracies where the rule of law is firmly established, the preaching of any religion is protected, as it should be. The self-styled “Sheik” Monis was an asylum seeker from Iran who took full advantage of this protection and indeed abused it criminally. Such cases are by now familiar. In recent years we have seen the exposure of extremist preachers such as Abu Hamza, once active in the U.K.; Fawaz Jneid in the Netherlands; and Taj Aldin al-Hilali in Australia itself.

Such men are not “lone wolves,” nor can their behavior be dismissed as merely symptoms of mental instability. They are part of a worldwide movement to awaken Muslims from what they consider the passivity of a purely religious Islam. Part of their strategy is to make existing Muslims politically active. And their starting point is always the shahada. If you are a true Muslim, they argue, it’s not enough to confess that there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his messenger. You need to do something about it.

These preachers also seek to convert non-Muslims. Many converts may at first be attracted to the spiritual component of the shahada, but they pretty soon find themselves caught up in political Islam.

This latest act of terror will prompt the usual claims that Islam is a religion of peace and the usual denunciations—as “Islamophobes”—of those, like me, who disagree. The reality is that Islam is both a religion and a political ideology, and its latter form is anything but peaceful. In political Islam, the assertion that there is no god but Allah is full of menace for those who worship another god or no god at all. I well remember my last visit to Australia, just last year, when I was greeted by a pack of baying Islamists carrying signs that read: “Message to INFIDEL Ayaan Hirsi Ali. BURN IN HELL FOREVER.” Those same thugs were also carrying a flag inscribed with the shahada.

Even when they themselves do not commit acts of violence, radical preachers are very often the instigators of terrorist acts that their perpetrators glorify as jihad—holy war, as waged by Muhammad after Medina.

To the extent that sincerely peace-loving Muslims wish to combat this trend, they need to do more than utter platitudes. They need to disown the likes of Man Haron Monis before they resort to violence, when they are preaching it. Unless this political dimension of Islam is acknowledged and repudiated, we will see no end to this type of terror, and no city—not even Sydney, more than 8,000 miles removed from Medina—will be safe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the founder of the AHA Foundation and the author of Infidel, Nomad, and the forthcoming Heretic: The Case for a Muslim Reformation, to be published next spring.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Majority of Americans Believe the Story of Jesus’ Birth is Historically Accurate

Guido Reni—Getty Images/The Bridgeman Art Library The Nativity at Night, 1640 (oil on canvas)

Far more than believe in climate change

More Americans believe the Christmas story is historically accurate than believe in climate change.

According to a new Pew Survey of over 1,500 U.S. adults, 73% say they believe Jesus was born to a virgin, and 74% say they believe Jesus’s birth was announced to the shepherds by an angel (among Protestant respondents, that rate is 91% and 90%, respectively). 78% of women say they believe in the virgin birth, 65% of the respondents said they believe all elements of the Christmas story are factually true.

These findings are remarkably consistent with last year’s Pew study which also found that 73% of respondents believe Jesus was born to a virgin. And a 2007 Gallup poll found that 31% of Americans thought that the Bible was “the actual word of God, to be taken literally.”

In this year’s survey, 44% of Americans say they thought Christian symbols should be allowed on government property, even if other religious symbols arent.

By contrast, a Pew study of from January found that only 61% of Americans think that climate change is happening, and only 40% believe it’s caused by human behavior. Which means that almost twice as many Americans believe in the virgin birth as believe in human-induced global warming.



TIME Religion

The Truth About Religion and Animals

To connect the dots between the preciousness of animal life and the preciousness of human life isn’t to engage in moral equivalence.

This week’s story about Pope Francis telling a distraught boy that his dog would go to heaven was just so heartwarming—too bad it wasn’t true. It’s no wonder that media across the globe and pet-lovers everywhere fell for it. The story fit so neatly into what’s become a conventional narrative: the one in which “good” Pope Francis is pitted against “bad” Church traditionalists (often wrongly called “conservatives”).

It’s been pointed out here and there that Pope Francis isn’t quite as suited to the chosen stereotype as some people think. What the new shaggy dog story goes to show is that neither are the meanie traditionalists and conservatives themselves—especially when it comes to animal welfare.

And therein lies not a tail, but a tale.

The fact is that the most energetic thinking about that subject for the last several years has been emanating from just those supposedly backward quarters. It’s occurring not despite people with an affinity for religious and other traditionalism, but rather, by and because of them.

American Catholic and Catholic-influenced thinkers have been in the forefront of this budding moral movement at least since the appearance 12 years ago of Matthew Scully’s seminal book Dominion. Where the prominent Republican speechwriter first led, others of similar leanings have followed (this author included), mindful carnivores and vegans/vegetarians alike. Pro-animal writings and debate are now an itinerant cottage industry in venues like National Review, First Things magazine, at the American Conservative, and elsewhere far outside the orbits of the typically secular-to-atheist animal rights constituency inspired by utilitarian theorist Peter Singer (Animal Liberation).

Similarly, The New Atlantis recently devoted an entire issue to the moral consideration of animals, including Caitrin Nicol’s widely read instant classic, “Do Elephants Have Souls?” The latest issue of The Journal of Moral Theology likewise consists entirely of articles about the moral meaning of non-human animals. And so many evangelical Protestants are now speaking out that the Humane Society of the United States this fall released a 12-part video series called “Faith Voices on Animal Protection.”

Why so much interest in animal welfare from such perhaps unexpected precincts?

In part, the answer is that religious concern for animals comes as a surprise only to readers unacquainted with religion—a number that’s increasing, as many surveys show. As many “nones” seem not to know, theological concern for animals is in fact longstanding, as the dietary rules of Judaism concerning slaughter are the first to show. The Catholic Catechism states that animals are “owed” moral treatment, and many Christian thinkers have agreed; theologian Charles Camosy’s recent book For Love of Animals is a useful primer here. Among others, Trappists, Cistercians, Benedictines, and a number of saints have adopted vegetarianism or otherwise debated the requirements of mercy regarding animals. Recent popes have also appealed variously for clemency toward birds and beasts. Benedict XVI, to name one, deplored the industrial creation of foie gras, to the approval of PETA.

Today’s new moral energy is also emanating from such quarters for another reason: the similarity discerned by some people between the industrial trashing of animal life via factory farms, and the industrial trashing of human life via factory abortion. When Pope Francis decries the tragedy of a “throwaway culture,” he is not only talking about fast-food wrappers or unwanted kitties—as his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, section 214, makes clear.

To connect the dots between the preciousness of animal life and the preciousness of human life isn’t to engage in moral equivalence. It’s rather to observe that people have big enough hearts to cherish both.

Once upon a time, concern for already-born animal life was thought to be on one side of the political aisle; and concern for unborn human life on the other. Today, more people can see beyond that false divide to a place where the two positions logically align. Maybe that’s why the Millennials, for all their vaunted progressivism, are more anti-abortion in polls than their Boomer parents; and they are simultaneously also more concerned with animal welfare, as the food industry is the first to know.

Whether furry friends await us in the hereafter is a question unlikely to be answered any time soon, including within the Apostolic Palace. But that more and more people today care about the dogs still here on earth—and the elephants, and the horses, and the pigs, and yes, the chickens too—is a widening social truth. And in a twist unforeseen a generation ago, believers from all over are helping to build that thing.

Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author most recently of How the West Really Lost God.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Won’t Get Tax Breaks

'Ark Encounter' is struggling to stay afloat

A life-size Noah’s Ark theme park planned in northern Kentucky won’t receive $18 million in tax incentives after concerns from the state over its hiring practices.

The state’s tourism secretary wrote a letter Wednesday saying that Answers in Genesis, which is funding the planned Ark Encounter theme park, was requiring “salvation testimony” and a “Creation belief statement” in its job postings, which the state said was discriminating based on religious grounds.

(MORE: Modern-Day Noah: Dutch Man Builds Ark of Biblical Proportions)

“It is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives,” wrote Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart.

The Ark Encounter, which would feature a 510-foot wooden replica of Noah’s Ark as described in the Bible, has been underway since 2010, but the $170 million project has run into financial difficulties since getting approval in 2011 from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

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