Thursday, March 10, 2011

More on the Ark Encounter

This is not new per se but there are more rumblings about the legality of the Ark project as it pertains to the state of Kentucky. NPR's Cheri Lawson writes:

Editorial boards of Kentucky's two largest newspapers have railed against the project. So have academics who disagree with the creationist view of science.

[Ken] Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, says increasingly there's a bias against Christians who take the book of Genesis as literal history. He says the theme park's intent is to create more awareness of the Bible.

"That's what it is," he says. "We make no apology about that. It is a theme park centered around biblical history."

What's getting more attention in Kentucky, though, is the proposed tax rebate. Under Kentucky's Tourism Act, the park could recoup more than $37 million based on ticket sales and the money brought in over the course of 10 years.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar at the University of California, Irvine, says building a Bible-based theme park isn't an issue. But giving it tax breaks violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

"The Supreme Court has said that the government can't act with the purpose or effect of advancing religion," he says. "This project is all about advancing religion even as the governor of Kentucky has described it. In that way, it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
There is also the point that the county in which the project is proposed currently has 11% unemployment and that such an endeavor would help the county financially. This is likely true. That does not, however, change the nature of the exhibit.

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  1. Darryl8:18 PM

    Jim, I'm trying to see on what grounds people could object to the tax breaks (unless one also objects to tax exemption for churches). I suppose one difference is that churches are non-profits and AiG isn't (or is it? I don't know). But in both cases, a religious organization is arguably being subsidized by the government, allowing it to more efficiently spread its message. And perhaps this is even a good thing, although it's sad to think that the Ark Encounter and likeminded organizations are having lots of success spreading their message.

  2. I think that the tax breaks are probably okay, in so much as churches get them also. I am not sure what I think about that, on the other hand. I think the overt support of the governor sets a peculiar precedent and you can look for other groups to ask for similar subsidies.