Kentucky Rejects $18M In Tax Incentives For Noah’s Ark Park

The group behind the project — Answers in Genesis — says it is considering legal action

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote in the letter. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

 

A proposed Noah’s Ark theme park in northern Kentucky has been turned down for around $18 million in state tax incentives amid concerns that it will promote religion and violate the separation of church and state.

But the group behind the project — Answers in Genesis — says it is considering legal action in federal court.

The state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said in a letter Wednesday that the Ark Encounter theme park has changed its position on hiring policies since it originally filed for incentives in 2010 and now intends to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

It also said the park has evolved from a tourist attraction into an extension of the ministry activities undertaken by Answers in Genesis, which promotes a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Old Testament and argues that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote in the letter. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

Officials will “take no further action” on the application, he said.

Answers in Genesis was seeking approval to participate in a state tax-incentive program that would have let the park keep 25 percent of the sales tax it collects for 10 years, amounting to more than $18 million.

The $73 million first phase of the Ark Encounter involves building a full-scale, 510-foot wooden replica of the ark to present the biblical account of Noah surviving a worldwide flood.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval in July but thereafter sought written assurances that project leaders would not discriminate on the basis of religion.

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