Creationist Theme Park Kills State Funding Over Right To Discriminate

Kentucky’s proposed “creationist theme park,” Ark Encounter, won’t receive tax incentives from the state because of potentially discriminatory hiring practices, the news website Insider Louisville reported on Wednesday.

The secretary of the state’s tourism and arts cabinet sent a letter to the theme park’s lawyers on Wednesday explaining the decision. The park, being built in Williamstown, Ky., may have been eligible for up to $18 million in tax breaks from the state, according to the website. But Kentucky backed out after the proprietors of Ark Encounter refused to agree to hiring practices that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion, the site reported.

Secretary Bob Stewart explained the hiring practices proved to be an insurmountable obstacle despite the state’s support of the project since it was proposed in 2010. (Gov. Steve Beshear (D) helped unveil the proposal that year.)

“We have strongly supported this project, believing it to be a tourism attraction based on biblical themes that would create significant jobs for the community,” Stewart wrote in the letter to Ark Encounter’s attorney.

Stewart wrote “the Commonwealth’s position hasn’t changed. The applicant’s position has changed.”

Answers in Genesis, the group behind Ark Encounter, has experienced funding issues throughout. In 2011, the company had only managed to garner $4.3 million in donations, a far cry from the proposed $24.5 million.

Proposals for the theme park included a “walled city much like what was found in ancient times, a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits, a first-century Middle Eastern village.”

According to the Ark Encounter’s website, initial groundwork for the project began in August and about $15 million has been raised thus far.

The group’s other endeavor, a creationist museum in Petersburg, Ky., also experienced funding issues when it was first conceptualized.

The Creation Museum, which opened in 2007, featured a dinosaur skeleton exhibit in May that meant to “tell the account of history according to the Bible.”

In February, the museum hosted Bill Nye “The Science Guy” for a debate with founder Ken Ham, entitled “Is creation a viable model of origins?” The debate was billed as an attempt to introduce the creation/evolution debate to “youngsters.”

Stewart’s letter is below, via the Insider Louisville:

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