A Win for Secularism as Kentucky Rejects Tax Breaks for Fundamentalist Theme Park

December 11, 2014

After investigations and a letter writing campaign by multiple secular organizations, including the Center For Inquiry, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has withdrawn its offer of around $18 million in state tax incentives to the Ark Encounter Theme Park.

The Ark Encounter, a religious theme park based the myth of Noah and the global flood, and with a recreation of the Biblical Ark as its centerpiece, is the project of Ken Ham (seen most recently being thoroughly schooled on evolution by Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Bill Nye) and his fundamentalist Christian group Answers in Genesis, which seeks to deny the scientific truth of evolution and instead require public schools to push creationism onto children.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave initial approval to the tax breaks for the theme park, after which CFI and other secular groups filed complaints and requested assurances that the Ark Encounter would not discriminate based on religion in its hiring decisions. When those assurances were not forthcoming, Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet announced in a letter:
 
[T]ax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. …. The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.

Answers in Genesis responded in typical fashion, by threatening a federal lawsuit against Kentucky, claiming discrimination. CFI congratulates Kentucky on its stand in favor of church-state separation. Declining to fund an organization that will refuse to hire those who do not share the extreme fundamentalist religious views as Answers in Genesis, and that exists solely to indoctrinate people into its anti-scientific views, is not discrimination. Instead it is the constitutionally mandated duty of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

CFI will continue to monitor the situation, and will take further action if necessary to ensure Kentucky taxpayers’ money is not used in this way.
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