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The Economist has posted a short piece (that appeared in last week’s print edition) about the Ark Encounter theme park and the legality of the tax breaks it’s likely to receive:

…the park’s employees will not need to adhere to the statement of faith. Kentucky’s Tourism Development Act provides tax incentives for any qualified tourism project. A 2009 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes Kentucky, said that as long as such programmes endorse “all qualified applicants”, they endorse “none of them, and accordingly [do not] run afoul of the federal or state religion clauses.” Onward, Christian tourists.

Update: The Washington Post has more on the park (h/t B&P):

The Ark Encounter has been in the news recently because of its strict interpretation of the Noah story, a biblical passage that has taken on new resonance as global warming raises fears of larger and more devastating floods and droughts worldwide. Bloggers have pounced on pages from the Answers in Genesis Web site that patiently explain why dinosaurs will be included among the animals represented in its ark display: “God sent two of every (seven of some) land animal into the Ark,” it says. “There were no exceptions.” They also believe in unicorns.

But the appearance of the LEED standards on the organization’s Web site is the bigger news, suggesting not only the extent of a trend already well documented – the embrace of environmentalism among evangelical Christians – but a fundamental shift in how religiously conservative Christians think of two basic biblical ideas: dominion and stewardship. And that change could have profound implications for the ongoing debate about global warming.

Evangelicals embracing environmentalism is an interesting angle. “They also believe in unicorns” is an interesting sentence.

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Georgetown College professor Dr. Robert Bevins has sent a letter to Governor Steve Beshear regarding the planned Ark Encounter creationist theme park and the state tax incentives Beshear says the park will receive.

From the Teaching Sapiens blog:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the severe injury done to the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s reputation. It is a sad day when Kansans can look down on Kentucky, that at least Kansas is not trying to attract an amusement park catering to the unscientific concept of young earth creationism.

Worse still, Kentucky is offering tax incentives to attract further development by Answers in Genesis, a group that can only further decrease our reputation as a state that values higher learning.

[edit]

It wouldn’t be a slap in the face to all of my fellow alumni of the University of Kentucky, devaluing the doctoral diploma that I proudly display in my office and  denigrating the verifiable and evidence based science taught in our land grant universities and private colleges if Kentucky wasn’t looking to help fund an ethically bankrupt amusement park. The presence of the Creation “Museum” is embarrassment enough, but to know that my tax dollars may help to fund its expansion, when researchers at UK and University of Louisville face tight budgets while performing ground breaking scientific research, it is simply too much.

Today, you helped to tarnish my hard won degree with the scorn of the academic community. In an instant, my years of scholarship became worth a tiny little bit less. I will have to defend my state as I once did as a child. “Yes, we wear shoes,” becomes, “No, we aren’t all stuck in a scientific stone age.”

[edit]

Ignorance is bliss to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, ignorance and fear of a wrathful and genocidal god. I wonder, shall the amusement park include a wave pool filled with the simulated bobbing bodies of the dead, as the Museum cheerfully displays the Genesis account of the Great Flood via computer animation and artistic dioramas of the wholesale slaughter of the world?Having been to this “Museum”, I can say that no depth is too low to subject young minds to in order to scare them away from inquiry and learning.

What shall I expect next from the government of our fair Commonwealth? Should UK and the University of Louisville begin to offer degrees in astrology? Will the UK medical school offer coursework in homeopathy? Perhaps you could establish a Department of Divination to direct the government’s future goals and to offer you a morning horoscope? Or should I expect some other discipline of magical thinking to be given the stamp of approval of the state?

Why did you choose to encourage what can only harm our state’s reputation? Was it a promise of 30 pieces of silver (a temporary increase in construction jobs) to betray our good name?

You can read the whole letter here.

(h/t to B&P)

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has thrown his support behind Ark Encounter, a Christian theme park that enforces the biblical interpretation of history, specifically the Noah’s Ark story. Ark Encounter will feature a replica of the Ark and the Tower of Babel, among other biblical attractions.

The park is planned for northern Kentucky. Beshear called it a “big deal,” and said the $150 million park is likely to create 900 jobs.

The park’s developers (Ark Encounters LLC and Answers in Genesis–the group behind the Creation Museum) are seeing tax incentives to build the park, saying it will ultimately bring money to the commonwealth. As Tony McVeigh reports, Beshear has promised the developers incentives, and says the government assistance does not violate any laws.

We have reviewed this from a legal standpoint and the application complies with our laws.  There is nothing even remotely unconstitutional about a for-profit organization coming in and investing a $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky and bring tourism to Kentucky.

From the C-J:

Louisville attorney David Tachau, who successfully sued over a state appropriation for a religiously affiliated pharmacy school, said he would have to further research the issue.

“It certainly sounds as if the mechanism for supporting a particular religious dogma would violate the establishment of religious prohibitions in the state and federal constitutions, but there may be slippery ways this could pass muster,” he said.

Edwin Kagin, a Northern Kentucky attorney who is also the national legal director for the group American Atheists, said it doesn’t appear to him to violate the law. If other projects with religious themes could qualify for the tax incentives, the law doesn’t discriminate.


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