Answers in Genesis Seeks Tax Breaks for New Theme Park

The Answers in Genesis folks unveiled plans for a new $150 million creationist theme park for northern Kentucky this morning and it’s going to feature a giant ark based on the biblical account of Noah and the Great Flood.

Answers in Genesis is the not-for-profit apologetics organization that built the Creation Museum, a 70,000 square-foot building devoted to the idea that everything in the bible is literally true and that evolution is a lie. As an example of its scientific rigorousness, one of the exhibits argues that dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden were all vegetarian.

In addition to Noah’s Ark, which developers claim will be built to scale, there will also be a replica of the Tower of Babel, a walled city similar to ancient times, live animal shows and a children’s play area and a 1st Century Medieval Village. There will be no roller coasters or other thrill rides.

AIG’s partner in the theme park project, Ark Encounter LLC, is a for-profit business based in Missouri.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear attended the press conference, praising the project for the boost he says it will give to the state economy. Developers say the theme park will bring 1.6 million visitors a year and will be completed by 2014.

A writer from the blog Barefoot and Progressive covered the press conference and gives pretty amusing coverage here. The writer tries, unsuccessfully, to find out whether the governor thinks creationism should be taught in the public schools.

As part of the new project, AIG and Ark Encounter also say they are seeking tax breaks from the state, an announcement which has raised the eyebrows of constitutional watchdogs.

According to the Courier-Journal:

Gov. Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson declined to answer questions Tuesday about possible incentives for the project.

The developers are seeking incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, which allows up to 25 percent of the cost of a project to be recovered. Under the law, the state each year returns to developers of approved projects the sales tax paid by visitors on admission tickets, food, gift sales and lodging costs. Developers have 10 years to reach the 25 percent threshold.

Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says there are concerns over the project, but it’s too early to tell whether the proposed business incentives would be unconstitutional in that it would involve excessive entanglement with religion.

“The larger question is should the state be promoting a religious enterprise like this—especially one that only serves to dumb down science education in the state. It’s a sad comment on our times that states are so desperate for jobs that they will align with an enterprise like this that elevates a blind adherence to biblical literalism over accepted science.”