Kentucky’s Tourism Arts & Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart informed representatives of the proposed Ark Encounter tourist attraction today that their project will not be eligible for up to $18 million in tax incentives from the state, due to their refusal to pledge not to discriminate in hiring based on religion.
“As you know, since the filing of the original incentive application in 2010, we have strongly supported this project, believing it to be a tourism attraction based on biblical themes that would create significant jobs for the community,” wrote Stewart in a letter to Ark Encounter’s attorney. “However, based on various postings on the Answers in Genesis (AIG) and Ark Encounter websites, reports from Ark Encounter investor meetings and our correspondence, it is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourism attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the Commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives.”
Stewart explains that their application will not go forward because the state will not grant incentives to a company that openly intends to discriminate in hiring based on religion, saying it is a violation of the state constitution for these incentives to be used to advance religion. He detailed how Ark Encounter representatives had previously promised not to discriminate in hiring several times, but recently they have stated they have every right to do so, saying, “The Commonwealth’s position hasn’t changed. The applicant’s position has changed.”
Stewart cited AiG CEO Ken Ham’s Nov. 19 fundraising letter that accused the Beshear administration of religious persecution and reaffirmed their desire to discriminate in hiring based on religion. He also cited other statements throughout the year from AiG officials claiming the purpose of the park is to evangelize and indoctrinate its visitors.
“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry,” wrote Stewart. “However, state tourism tax 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.”
Stewart went on to wish the Ark Encounter project well, despite the fact that it will receive no money or incentives from the state.
Good. I've been saying the Yabba Dabba D'oh here should never have gotten a dime, and it looks like finally that Ken Ham will have to fork over his own cash. I'm not paying for a Christian indoctrination theme park with my tax dollars, especially when "Christian" here has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ and everything to do with being a complete bigoted asshole to everyone.
Good riddance, and I hope the whole thing burns.