Kentucky about to give tax breaks to Ark Park

July 28, 2014 • 10:35 am

. . . and tax breaks for this execrable exhibit, which presents the Ark as fact, are the same as taxpayers’ funding of the park. A new alert from the Freedom from Religion Foundation says this:

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority is expected to give approval tomorrow (Tuesday, July 29) of major tax incentives for a proposed $172.5 million Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.

Ark Encounter is a project of Answers in Genesis, which describes itself as an “apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and which created the Creation Museum in Boone County about 40 miles away. The museum’s founder, Ken Ham, famously debated Bill Nye earlier this year. “God has burdened AiG to rebuild a full-size Noah’s Ark,” Ham wrote on his website.

The plan calls for a 510-foot wooden ark , reportedly to cost $24.5 million alone, as part of the 800-acre Ark Encounter park to open partially constructed in summer 2016. As of February, the group had only raised $14.4 million. The park is also to include a “pre-flood themed area,” live animal shows and a “Tower of Babel” featuring a theatre and “first-century village.”

A Kentucky program allows eligible tourism attractions a 25% rebate on sales tax collected for such items as admission tickets, food, souvenirs, etc., over a ten-year period. The rebate might total as much as $18.25 million.

If the tourism board votes yes Tuesday, as expected, final approval would be sought within two months. The state first granted preliminary approval in 2011 for up to $43.1 million in sales tax rebates over 10 years, with Gov. Steve Beshear’s very open blessings. Answers in Genesis withdrew the appication after funding delays and has had to reapply.

Public help has already included a $62 million municipal bond offered from the city of Williamstown, where the park is to be located. Bloomberg News reported that tourist attractions have defaulted on such bonds as Williamstown offered, with the added risk of legal challenges based on the state/church entanglement.

This of course means the State of Kentucky is not only in the religion business, but is forcing its citizens to subsidize telling lies to children.

If you’d like to protest, the FFRF has contact information (I’ve corrected their email link, which is the easiest way to protest). You will, of course, be most effective if you’re a resident of Kentucky, but if you have two minutes to write a short email, it might be worthwhile.

Office of the Secretary
24th Floor, Capital Plaza Tower
500 Mero Street
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
(502) 564-4270


37 thoughts on “Kentucky about to give tax breaks to Ark Park

  1. “God has burdened AiG to rebuild a full-size Noah’s Ark,” Ham wrote on his website. Too bad Hambone’s god did not burden him to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty,……

      1. I think there is no cause to worry that the Hobby Lobby decision will have any relevance to this matter. The Hobby Lobby decision was not decided on the basis of the First Amendment, but rather a federal statute. So as awful as the decision is, its scope is limited.

        1. It’s not the legal basis of the decision that worries me, but what it signals about a shift in the courts towards antidisestablishmentarianism.

          …woah…did I just seriously find a legitimate use for that term?


  2. “A Kentucky program allows eligible tourism attractions a 25% rebate on sales tax collected for such items as admission tickets, food, souvenirs, etc., over a ten-year period. The rebate might total as much as $18.25 million.”

    I’m not sure that I should have a problem with this. It is a tax rebate available to any business that meets the secular standards. I’m for equal treatment and that sounds like equal treatment on par with other businesses. And the park wouldn’t get any discounts until it A) meets the requirements B) actually generates sales. I don’t see how this could be opposed on any basis that treats all businesses equally regardless of religion or lack thereof.

    What I’m against, though, are the direct investments in the park and its infrastructure by the state. Those seem like crossing the constitutional line between church and state to me. Sales tax discount available all business that meet the requirements? Not so much.

    1. I agree — the tourism tax breaks seem reasonable to me, or at least don’t seem like special treatment.

      1. I agree too. Imo, the state giving tax breaks to religious groups because they are religious groups is the issue. Further, in return for this, they’re supposed to stay out of politics. Many openly flout this rule because they know they can get away with it.

  3. Yes, Mr. Hart and Mr. Robbins, there are no literalist Xians in the US. Religious people regard the bible as allegory. Just ask Ken Ham’s people at Answers In Genesis, they’ll tell you!

  4. Given Ham’s litteral interpretation of the Bible, and the next article about the Popes assertion that Genesis is poetic language, maybe Ham and the Pope should have a debate.

  5. No biggie – no intelligent bond-investor would touch this with a pole, and last I heard, AiG couldn’t raise the money to get started. If they do, and the bondholders lose their shirts, it must be you-know-whose will.

    Better to make sure that your pension fund isn’t funding this turkey with your money.

        1. When I was a kid, I saw a cartoon where the animals helped build the ark. I believed it and I remember insisting to my parents that it was true: “The animals built it! I saw it on TV!” It didn’t occur to me that they would show it if it weren’t true. Just like the Bible.

  6. Ham is shooting way too high. Here is a much simpler idea which ought to be a real money maker.

    A living garden of Eden. All that is needed is:
    1. A fruit tree
    2. Two naked docents(gender optional; I think I know which way he would go here)
    3. And a Burmese python.

    Then sell selfies at $5 a pop. The bucks ought to roll in. And imagine what the folks back home will think.

  7. I’m sure it says in the First Book of Ham

    “Thou shalt not tax the Lord thy God, nor His faithful servants”

  8. Huh? I thought this was old news. As Scote says, the rebate is given to most tourist attractions regardless of what they are, so IMO its not endorsement.

    But secondly and more pragmatically important, Ham is going to have to build the darn thing and open it before he sees any of these breaks. I don’t give that much of a chance at this point.

    1. One could silently hope he just manages to start it up, and go spectacularly bankrupt in about 5 years time, dragging all the bonds and perhaps the whole of AiG with him.

      That would sure be worth the tax money.

      1. The bonds for the Ark Park are specifically, and cynically, not backed by AIG and are essentially junk bonds. the sales tax rebate is utterly un-affected by the likely failure of the Ark Park. If the park doesn’t make money through sales, there is no sales tax rebate and no state funds “lost” to it. AThe tax rebate caps out at 25% of the sales tax – essentially a rebate on the sales tax from sales the 25% of out of state tourists who are required as a condition of the rebate.

        I really can’t object to this rebate so long as it is offered evenly, across the board to all businesses, especially if I want to be consistent. I support the FFRF’s legal action against preferential treatment of churches over non-religious non-profits by the IRS, and of the parsonage exemption. Those are things that inherently favor religion over non-religion. This sales tax exemption does not. And for atheists to object to it would be the reverse of what the FFRF is fighting, government discrimination *against* a religious point of view. Both types of discrimination are wrong. My freedom of non-religion comes from the same source as others freedom of religion, so I want the government to stay neutral when it comes to religion vs. non-religion, which means that the Ark Park must be eligible for the sales tax rebate on the same basis as any other business.

        However, I’d say the city of Williamstown’s $62 million dollar bond is both a bad investment *and* impermissible religious favoritism. Any objective analysis of the Ark Park’s prospects is against any such investment.

        1. Re: the bond. I’m not sure it’s impermissible religious favoritisim because I don’t know the town’s investment history. If they’ve issued bonds in support of other private start-up businesses, to kickstart business in the area, then I can’t see this bond as religious favoritism. OTOH if this is some relatively unique and special exception to how the town operates, I could see that as favoritism. I simply don’t have data on that.

          Completely agree with you about it being a bad investment.

  9. I heard from somebody that Ham’s boat, when finished, will include was replica’s of all 15 hominid species, from Orroren tugenensis to Homo sapiens, since they must all have existed together when the Flood was commanded and only perished separately afterward.

    Noah and his incestuous close kin will be housed in the big comfy cabin on the main deck, of course, with the other fourteen, um, cousins, in quarters TBD elsewhere. I hope they aren’t tucked into the same compartment belowdecks as this bad boy …

    … just in case God gets a wild hair some bustling July afternoon, and decide to animate the whole shebang for a few moments, just to see how a dozen busloads of Christian kids and their counselors react to the real deal. God is known to be a prankster who doesn’t always think through the consequences, as we all know and believe, so it can’t be ruled out.

    Or maybe the person was bullshitting me; I’m still thinking it over. This might affect my investment decision.

    1. It’s a full sized ark? Then Ham can demonstrate how easy it is to get two two of every ‘kind’ on board and keep them there for forty days, well-fed, living in harmony, then released in perfect health.

      What an opportunity for him to put his money where his considerably-sized mouth is! I’m sure he won’t let us down.

      1. The duration of the Flood was a year and 10 days. Please don’t forget that or you will surely roast in the flames of Hell for eternity.

            1. “Methuselah lived 900 years
              Methuselah lived 900 years
              But who’d call that livin’
              When no gal would give in
              to any man what’s 900 years?”
              –from It Ain’t Necessarily So

    1. Good idea. Very biblical. Only Ken Ham and 7 family members should be allowed to work on this, and only with hand tools.

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