September 2014 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A proposed creationist theme park, the “Ark Encounter,” has received preliminary approval for tax rebates from Kentucky’s state tourism board. The rebates would total nearly $18 million, approximately 25 percent of the park’s total budget.

The Associated Press reported that the park (often informally called the “Ark Park”), is being bankrolled by a subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, a creationist ministry. Mike Zorvath, who co-founded the project, told the AP that the park is intended to “present the gospel” to visitors.

“We believe that the park is clearly a sectarian endeavor and should be ineligible for any tax incentives from the state,” AU’s Sarah Jones told the AP.

Some Kentucky officials share those concerns. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) cited church-state separation during a recent press conference. Stumbo added that the state would likely lose a legal challenge over its decision to grant the park tax rebates.

According to Stumbo, the park would violate the First Amendment, “[B]ecause it erects a monument with the help of state money theoretically that is recognized by a majority religion in this country.”

The Ark Park has had difficulty raising its own funds. As Church & State noted in a previous issue, this isn’t the first time the park has requested incentives from the state.