Kentucky Allows $18 Million in Tax Incentives for Christian Theme Park

Noah's Ark


Kentucky has now reversed its decision to exempt taxes for the religious-theme park that is expected to feature a 500-feet-long wooden ark, symbolic of Noah’s story in the Bible. The state said it reached its decision after learning that the park’s organizers do in fact plan on screening employees on the basis of their religion. 

The park, which was initially understood to be a tourist attraction, has now grown into an outreach program for the Christian ministry behind its construction, said Bob Stewart, state tourism secretary, in a letter to the group’s lawyer.

“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry,” Stewart wrote in the letter. “However, state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion.”

The attraction has been in the pipeline since 2010 until its construction received the green signal earlier this year. Kentucky-based Christian ministry Answers in Genesis has led the project from the start, for which only the foundation has been laid so far. The organization’s president Ken Ham said in a press release that the loss of tax exemption will surely cost the park a lot of money but it will continue to be built.

- - -

Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Board recently permitted $18 million in tax incentives for a controversial Christian theme park in the state. The board collectively voted on July 29 to approve sales tax breaks for the Ark Encounter, a religious park that is to be built in Williamstown. Answers in Genesis, the conservative non-profit organization that also runs Creation Museum, is responsible for setting up of this latest Christian theme park in Northern Kentucky. The project plans on including a replica of Noah’s Ark, a duplicate of the Tower of Babel and also proselytizing Christian evangelicalism to patrons.

According to Keith Williams, Finance Board Chairman, this project was assessed like any other that has been placed before the panel previously. He believes the preliminary analysis of the park’s economic impact pointed towards several benefits for the state.

“They could produce a good amount of tourism for the state of Kentucky. It could help the hotel industry, the restaurant industry in that entire area. So if that is the case, and it does boost tourism, then they, yeah, they meet that criteria,” said Williams, who was appointed by Governor Steve Beshear, a
supporter of the project.

Mike Zovath, Answers in Genesis Vice President, said there is no difference between using public money to fund this project and the state sponsoring events at public arts and performance venues.

“They’re not sponsoring the speech of actors and stand-up comedians. So they’re not sponsoring that anymore than they’re sponsoring what goes on at the Ark Encounter, whatever that might be. "This is purely an economic issue,” he said.

The Finance Board will decide whether to grant the final approval for the proposed incentives by September. It is currently awaiting a final analysis of the project by a hired consulting firm. It is not yet clear how many jobs the project would offer or whether non-Christian employees would be hired for the same. A job posting for the park on the Answers in Genesis website however, states that employees must share the company’s statement of faith.

Critics of the project have said that the proposed incentives blur the line between separation of church and state. But, Gil Lawson, Tourism Board spokesman, said that the state is not trying to endorse Christianity in any way and the incentives have been offered because they are in the best interest of Kentucky’s tourism.

If you like our posts, subscribe to the Atheist Republic newsletter to get exclusive content delivered weekly to your inbox. Also, get the book "Why There is No God" for free.

Click Here to Subscribe

Donating = Loving

Heart Icon

Bringing you atheist articles and building active godless communities takes hundreds of hours and resources each month. If you find any joy or stimulation at Atheist Republic, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

Or make a one-time donation in any amount.