Noah's Ark Park Hits Another Wall
Kentucky denies $18M in tax incentives over discrimination worries
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2014 9:51 AM CST
In this July 7, 2011 file photo, Mike Zovath, co-founder of Answers in Genesis ministries, poses for photos at the Ark Encounter headquarters in Hebron, Ky.   (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan, File)
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(Newser) – It's again raining on Ark Encounter's parade—er, park. The creationist theme park in the works since 2010 has been denied $18 million in Kentucky tax incentives based on concerns that it will violate the separation of church and state. Though the state initially gave its approval of the park in July, Answers in Genesis, the group in charge of the project, has since indicated it will hire employees based on religion, the Courier-Journal reports. Kentucky's Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet also worries the park will advance the group's ministry activities, and "state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion," a tourism rep says. He adds officials will "take no further action."

But a lawyer for Answers in Genesis—which also runs the Creation Museum—says that amounts to "unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination" as the group is an "overtly religious entity" that is "clearly allowed" to consider religion when hiring. He says the group is considering legal action. Reuters reports employees may be asked to declare their belief in creationism. Gov. Steve Beshear reiterated the state's concerns yesterday, but noted the park can still go ahead as planned. "Ark Encounter has said publicly that the project will be built regardless of availability of state incentives," he said. Work on the park is already under way after Bill Nye unwittingly helped organizers reach a funding goal earlier this year.