A proposed theme park based on the story of Noah’s Ark will not receive tax incentives from the state of Kentucky, officials announced today.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State hailed the move.
“This project was never a good candidate for public funding,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Its purpose is to promote fundamentalist Christianity, and it should be funded with private contributions from believers.”
Ark Encounter is a project of Answers in Genesis (AIG), a fundamentalist Christian organization that promotes creationism and biblical literalism. The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet had granted preliminary approval for the park to receive tax incentives, but today the cabinet informed AIG that it does not qualify for state aid.
In a letter to AIG, cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart wrote, “[I]t is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourism project to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the Commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives.”
In addition, Stewart added that the park can’t receive the aid because it intends to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring staff.
Wrote Stewart, “The use of state incentives in this way violates the Separation of Church and State provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”
According to the project’s own website, “The purpose of the Ark Encounter is to point people to the only means of salvation from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, who also is the only God-appointed way to escape eternal destruction.”
Over the past few years, Americans United has repeatedly urged Kentucky officials not to award tax aid to this clearly sectarian project.
“Kentucky officials did the right thing to comply with the state constitution,” said AU Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser. “The ‘Ark Park’ project should never have relied on public aid to stay afloat.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.