Ark Encounter v. Stewart

Last modified 2022.02.09

  • Status Closed
  • Type Amicus
  • Court U.S. District Court
  • Issues Discrimination by Businesses, Discrimination in Name of Religion, Government-Supported Religion, Religious and Racial Equality, Taxpayer Funding of Religion

Answers in Genesis is an evangelical Christian ministry that adheres to a literal interpretation of the Bible. In 2010, Answers in Genesis decided to build a museum featuring a large-scale model of Noah’s Ark. The museum, dubbed Ark Encounter, would attempt to demonstrate the literal truth of the biblical story of Noah, and would serve as an extension of Answers in Genesis’s ministry.

Ark Encounter applied for tax subsidies under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act. Kentucky initially approved the tax subsidies. But Ark Encounter was forced to scale back the project and reapply for taxpayer funding when it struggled to attract outside funding. By then, Kentucky officials had become aware that Ark Encounter intended to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring for the project, and more generally that Ark Encounter was intended as an evangelical attraction to promote Answers in Genesis’s religious ministry. As a result, Kentucky rejected Ark Encounter’s second application for tax subsidies.

In response, Ark Encounter and Answers in Genesis sued the Kentucky officials, claiming that Kentucky’s refusal to subsidize their project violated the U.S. Constitution. In March 2015, we moved, on behalf of several Kentucky taxpayers, to intervene in defense of the Commonwealth’s decision to decline to provide taxpayer funding to Ark Encounter. Although the court denied our motion to intervene, it invited us to file an amicus brief.

In our brief, we argued that neither the federal nor the Kentucky constitutions require taxpayers to fund a religious ministry, and that if provided, the funding demanded by Ark Encounter would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

In January 2016, the trial court ruled that Ark Encounter could not be denied taxpayer funding on account of its religious content or its religious discrimination in hiring. Kentucky’s new governor announced that Kentucky would not appeal the decision.

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