The saga that is the construction of Ark Encounter, Kentucky’s proposed “creationist theme park,” plowed on Tuesday as the project’s coordinator vowed to sue the state for discrimination.
Ironically, it was the project’s proprietor, Answers in Genesis, refusing to agree to hiring practices that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion that led Kentucky tourism officials to yank about $18 million worth of crucial tax incentives for Ark Encounter in December.
Answers in Genesis said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to reject its application for the tax incentives “violates federal and state law and amounts to unlawful viewpoint discrimination.”
“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said in the statement. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”
Mike Johnson, an attorney for Ark Encounter, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the planned lawsuit wouldn’t slow down construction of the park, which had hit fundraising snags since the project was unveiled in 2010 with support from Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D). Beshear will be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, according to the statement from the group.
Ark Encounter said on its website that concrete had been poured Monday at the construction site and some of the columns on which the ark will sit had been erected.
Johnson told the Courier-Journal that the litigation may still affect the scope of the project, though. The park was projected to cost $73 million and include “an Old Testament ark, a petting zoo, theater, two cafes and gift shop,” according to the newspaper.
“You’re talking about a lot of money here,” Johnson said.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.