The controversial Noah’s Ark park being developed in Kentucky just had its hopes for an $18 million tax break sunk by the state.
The project is named Ark Encounter and was originally presented to Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet in 2010 as a tourist attraction. In recent developments, however, it’s become clear that the theme park is actually an extension of the ministry of its developer, Answers In Genesis. The group also owns Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.
A letter written by Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart says:
State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.
That Kentucky believes in the separation of church and state is certainly good to know.
The issue is discrimination in hiring.
The tax incentives were originally considered when the state thought there would be no discrimination in hiring. However, it has become evident, according to the Courier-Journal, that the hiring practices of Answers in Genesis include a purity test:
… which would require that Ark Park workers adhere to Christian beliefs, attend a ‘local, Bible-believing church’ and attest that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The organization promotes the literal interpretation of the Old Testament and the belief that the Earth is only 6,000 years old — you know, back when dinosaurs and men roamed the Earth together.
Answers In Genesis just initiated a broadside against “All of our intolerant liberal friends” in the form of a billboard campaign. The billboards are to carry the message “Thank God You Can’t Sink This Ship.” They are to run in Louisville, Lexington, and — of all places — New York City’s Times Square.
Certainly, one has to wonder who’s side “God” is on if “He” can’t come up with a measly $18 million in tax incentives. Kentucky’s Governor Steve Beshear has confidence that, while he supports his tourism officials, that mere figure shouldn’t be an obstacle to plans for the park. He said:
Ark Encounter has said publicly that the project will be built regardless of availability of state incentives.
So why is it that the lawyers for Answers In Genesis are threatening a lawsuit in federal court to wrest the $18 million in tax incentives from the grasp of Kentucky taxpayers’ hands? Could it be because there’s a lack of enthusiasm for the project among investors?
What is the real threat to Noah’s Ark park?
Last February, the venture was in danger of collapsing. The group’s president, Ken Ham, sent out an urgent appeal to potential investors:
We still need those Ark supporters who weren’t able to purchase the Ark bonds at closing to prayerfully consider participating in a secondary bond delivery at the level they had indicated to us. Will you please step out in faith with us?
He also said:
The associated complications and struggles have been beyond our control.
Well, who’s control are they under, then? As an editorial in the Courier-Journal observed:
Surely if Noah, at age 600, could build an ark with nothing other than cypress wood and divine inspiration, can’t the Ark Park proceed without tax breaks?
Can’t it? Or maybe it’s not a lack of money that’s the problem. And I’m just asking here, but — could it possibly be a lack of faith?
Feature photo courtesy of wikipedia.org.