For Immediate Release
Joe Conn, Rob Boston or Sandhya Bathija
Americans United Criticizes Kentucky Officials for Offering Tax Aid to Fundamentalist Theme Park
Church-State Watchdog Group Says So-Called ‘Ark Park’ Promotes Fundamentalist Religion and Bad Science
WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today blasted officials in Kentucky for their decision to award more than $50 million in tax incentives to a theme park centered around Noah’s Ark.
A fundamentalist Christian group sought the aid to erect a so-called “Ark Park” in Williamstown. Gov. Steve Beshear backed the scheme, saying it would bring jobs to the state.
Americans United says that’s not a good enough reason for the state to promote a religious enterprise like the Ark Park, which is being constructed in conjunction with evangelist Ken Hamm’s Answers in Genesis ministry.
“The state of Kentucky should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help.”
The controversial park will include a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark and models of dinosaurs, which Hamm insists were carried on the famous biblical boat. Answers in Genesis, a prominent creationist ministry with an annual budget of $20 million, believes that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and that unicorns once existed – ideas utterly rejected by mainstream science. (Answers in Genesis already operates a Creationism Museum in Kentucky.)
The state aid to the new park is coming mainly in the form of tax incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act. The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority met this afternoon and approved the aid.
Lynn said AU will investigate whether the tax package violates the constitutional separation of church and state. But the funding is bad policy, he said, regardless of the legal questions.
“Beshear wants to launch this ark on a sea of tax breaks – money that will ultimately have to be made up by Kentucky taxpayers,” Lynn said. “This misguided project deserves to sink.”
Lynn added, “I feel sorry for the children of Kentucky. At a time when they should be learning modern science, their public officials are subsidizing fundamentalist religion.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.