Kentucky Offers Tax Breaks for Noah's Ark Theme Park

| Wed Dec. 1, 2010 6:00 PM EST

At a press conference in Frankfort today, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced his unlikely plan to save the state's economy—by offering a massive tax incentive to the planners of Ark Encounter, an eco-friendly Noah's Ark theme park to be built outside Cincinnati. Building a Genesis-based theme park, during a recession? Shouldn't he be focusing on Job?

Per the Herald-Leader:

During the news conference, Beshear was asked several questions regarding the separation of church and state and whether support of the project was constitutional.

He said the law does not allow him to discriminate against a for-profit business because of the subject matter. Not everyone supports NASCAR, the governor said, but that did not stop him for providing incentives to allow Kentucky Speedway to hold a Sprint cup race next year.

He said there was nothing "remotely unconstitutional" about the business and the economic impact it would have on the state.

A Noah's Ark theme park actually sounds like a lot of fun—animals (x2), water, "replica of the Tower of Babel"—and if it can replicate the success of the nearby Creation Museum (run by the same group, Answers in Genesis), it promises to be an economic boon. Eighty percent of the museum's visitors come from out of state, which means that, sinkholes permitting, they're likely to cram as much into their visit to Kentucky as possible. Beshear's justifications seem legally airtight—even American Atheists couldn't come up with any objections.

But it also amounts to a giveaway (as much as $37.5 million) to AiG, an organization that's committed to defeating secular science education; (the park promises educational exhibits to go with its amusements). And while Beshear says he'd be open to the same kind of deal with any for-profit religious organization, is there any realistic chance of anyone besides AiG creating something of this stature? The market for a Hijra-themed resort in Paducah seems a little dry right now.

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I think my favorite part of the announcement, though, was this bit, from Beshear's office:

One of the factors in getting the Ark Encounter to launch the Ark project at this time was a November 2009 CBS News survey, which revealed that the remains of Noah's Ark would be the greatest archaeological discovery of our day...The response: Noah's Ark (43 percent); Atlantis (18 percent); Amelia Earhart's plane (16 percent); Nixon's lost tapes (13 percent); and Cleopatra's barge (5 percent)."

Somehow I don't think the Amelia Earhart water park would go over quite so well.

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