This morning I saw the news that Kentucky will not be granting Answers in Genesis’s “Ark Encounter” park its twenty-five percent tax discount that other tourist attractions in the state receive. Their reason is that AIG’s hiring practices, which require employees to self-identify as Christians, are discriminatory.
I’m not really interested in whether this is an attack on religious liberty, a stand against indoctrination, or any of that stuff. Those issues seem to be adequately addressed in the comment sections of various news articles. What I’d like to talk about is strategy.
Is this just a brilliant gambit by AIG? It’s not like their hiring policy actually makes any sense for them, but it’s a very nice red herring to bargain with later. Consider the following:
- It’s not exactly hard to lie about whether you’re a Christian. Plenty of people do it for far less than a job.
- A group of self-avowed Christians is not going to have fewer internal disputes than a mixed group.
- Reaching non-Christians is a primary goal of AIG’s ministry. What better way than to hire them to work alongside you every day?
- There can still be a code of conduct for employees to ensure they stick to the script while inside the park.
- Does it make a difference to the experience if the guy selling lemonade at the concession stand is a Buddhist?
- Having non-Christians on staff limits the perception that questionable practices might be covered up due to religious pressure.
As it currently stands, there is a public outcry against this policy, and people are saying “We would support you if it weren’t for this discriminatory practice.” For AIG to turn this to a significant advantage, all they need do is wait. After a suitable stalling period, to build up some pressure, they can change that hiring rule and make a press release about wanting to include people of all beliefs.
That’s good press, and those who said they were unreasonable will have to applaud AIG’s willingness to include non-Christians, or risk being accused of being anti-religious themselves. Well played.