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Published On: Wed, Jan 7th, 2015

Kentucky kills tax benefits for Ken Ham, Noah’s Ark project

Kentucky officials officially withdrew a state tax incentive package for a Christian nonprofit building a replica of Noah’s ark, claiming the rebate violated the principle of church-state separation.
Answers in Genesis (AIG), an apologetics ministry led by Ken Ham, plans to build an 800-acre theme park centered around a life-sized Noah’s ark in Williamstown, Ky. AIG participated in Kentucky’s tax-incentive program designed to draw tourism to the Bluegrass State.
Evan_Almighty_ArkThe program allows tourist attractions to recover up to 25 percent of their development costs by refunding the sales tax they collect for the first 10 years of operation. In 2011, AIG received initial approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Committee to participate in the program, authorizing up to $43.1 million in rebates, USA Today reported.
After AIG informed the tourism committee that the park would be built in phases instead of all at once, and AIG had taken sole ownership of the facility, the committee asked AIG to re-apply for the tax-incentive program, which it did. The state granted approval with two conditions: AIG could not show religious preference in hiring and could not discuss Christianity at the exhibit, according to comments made by Ken Ham, president and CEO of AIG, in a YouTube video.

“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” tourism secretary Bob Stewart wrote in a letter to AIG, according to The Courier-Journal. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”
Ham notes the new conditions set forth by the committee are not found anywhere in the law. In addition, as a nonprofit AIG has a legal right to hire people who believe in the Christian faith, he said.
“The state has known all along that our ark project was based on the Bible,” Ham argued in the video. “It’s always been a religious attraction.”
James Parsons, an attorney for AIG, sent a letter to the state noting the board’s demands on hiring policies violate both state and federal law, amounting to “viewpoint discrimination,” The Christian Post reported. If the demands are not removed, Parsons warns AIG will “seek redress in federal court.”
The organization also runs the Creation Museum near Petersburg, Ky., located 20 miles west of Cincinnati, Ohio. Almost 2.3 million people have visited the museum since it opened in 2007.
Using the rebate for religious purposes violates the principle of church-state separation, Kentucky officials claim.
In a recent blog post, Ham discussed ongoing attacks by liberal media outlets and atheists who hope to stop the Ark Encounter from being built. In response to “spreading blatant lies and misinformation” about the project, AIG commissioned 16 billboards that went up this week across Kentucky, as well as a digital board in New York City’s Times Square. The billboards feature a picture of the ark and read, “To all of our intolerant liberal friends: THANK GOD YOU CAN’T SINK THIS SHIP.” Ham said he hopes the billboards will encourage people to visit the AIG website and “discover the truth.”
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About the Author

- Sierra is a copy writer for The Dispatch, focusing primarily on pop culture and stories linked to the latest Christian headlines, both in the U.S. and overseas.

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