Artist’s rendering of the Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark-themed park planned for a site west of Interstate 75 near Williamstown, Ky., about 50 miles south of Cincinnati
(Photo: Answers in Genesis)
The religious organization planning a Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit against state officials Thursday for rejecting its application for tax incentives to help finance the park.
Answers in Genesis, developer of the Ark Encounter project, had announced earlier this week that it would file the lawsuit, which contends the state’s denial amounts to discrimination against the group’s Christian faith.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, said in a press release that the lawsuit “details how this action by Kentucky officials, including Gov. Steve Beshear … violates federal and state law and undermines our constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom.”
The 48-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Frankfort. It names Beshear and state Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart as defendants in the case.
Answers in Genesis won preliminary approval from a state board last summer for about $18 million in tax incentives for its $73 million plan to build the park, including a 510-foot-long wooden ship.
But in December, Stewart notified the group by letter that its application for incentives was denied over concerns that the project had evolved from a qualified tourist attraction to an effort to advance a religion and that developers planned to discriminate in hiring based on religion.
The Governor’s Office and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet declined to comment Thursday on the lawsuit.
Answers in Genesis is seeking participation in a tourism development incentive program that allows qualified applicants to retain part of the sales tax their projects collect from customers after the project begins operations.
SOURCE: The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal