Taxpayers Keep Noah's Ark Afloat In Kentucky

A proposed biblical theme park, set to include a 510-foot-long model of Noah's Ark, will break ground next week in Kentucky, thanks to $18.5 million worth of tax incentives.

The biblical theme park project Ark Encounter, which is run by a creationist group called Answers In Genesis, received the tax incentives with unanimous approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, io9 reports. While the approval is preliminary, Ark Encounter has strong political support from Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. A spokesman said that the governor wished "the project success as it continues toward final approval to bring tourism and economic activity to Northern Kentucky." The Kentucky state legislature is responsible for final approval for the tax incentives. The state also may spend an additional $11 million to renovate a highway interchange near the Ark Encounter site.

Ark Encounter has faced funding issues in the past, as NPR reports. In January, the project nearly foundered when Answers In Genesis almost triggered a redemption of unrated municipal bonds they sold to finance Ark Encounter. In February, Ken Ham, who heads Answers In Genesis, engaged in a high-profile debate with Bill Nye, as The Inquisitr previously reported. The debate sparked an uptick in funding that reportedly was enough to save Ark Encounter.Despite concerns that support for Ark Encounter may violate the separation of church and state, Beshear has claimed the law does not allow Kentucky to discriminate against a for-profit business because of its subject matter. Dave Muscato, a spokesman for American Atheists, voiced his disappointment with the incentives:
"It's absolutely inappropriate and unconstitutional for the state to promote a religious view. This park will promote bad things, false things, and will give the impression that government is supporting this."
Mike Zovath, the co-founder and project coordinator for Ark Encounter, said that it was "a real stretch" to claim that the tax incentives amounted to government sponsorship, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Citing tax breaks granted to an entertainment center in Newport, Zovath said that the state of Kentucky was "not sponsoring that any more than they are sponsoring what goes on at the Ark Encounter."

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