Anyone following the Ark Encounter saga in Kentucky has seen that Answers in Genesis (AiG), the parks parent company has been moving forward with the construction of the park even after losing an $18 million tax incentive late last year.
“The tax incentives, the tax rebates, have nothing to do with construction,” said Mike Zovath, chief action officer, and co-founder of AiG. “… We didn’t even include that in our budget or bond offering. That would all be used for future expansion.”
This does slightly contradict earlier statements in which AiG officials had claimed phase two of construction would only be possible after receiving the tex benefits, but it seems AiG is no longer making this the case. Zavath made it clear:
“We just don’t need the incentives to get this thing built at this point in time.”
And critics of the park agree, as Rob Boston, communications director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) said, “The fact that Ark Encounter has been able to take this process so far indicates they don’t need any taxpayer support.”
Oddly enough, since both AiG and AU agree that the tax rebate is no longer needed, one might assume AiG would drop the frivolous lawsuit and carry on with business as usual, but that is not the case.
“That incentive deal is the right of any attraction that meets all of the standards that the state put forward,” Zovath said. “And the integrity of the state is at issue here. We looked around at Indiana and Ohio. And the incentives for bringing the tourist attraction to Kentucky were the reason we decided on this particular site.”
Kentucky officials were originally very excited about the project and preliminarily approved the tax rebate until information surfaced that the park was clearly violating employment laws as well as violating the establishment clause.
“State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion,” Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart wrote in the letter. “The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”
AiG subsequently filed suit against the state claiming they were being discriminated against for their religious beliefs. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has asked a federal court to throw out the case.
Yet even with all the drama between the state and AIG, state officials say they are happy to see the park’s construction moving forward.
“Even though the Commonwealth cannot support this new ministry with Tourism Development incentives, we acknowledge and appreciate (AiG’s) plans to develop this project in Kentucky, regardless of the availability of incentives,” Stewart wrote in his letter.
Earlier this month the park announced that visitors can come see the progress for themselves by paying a $20 visitor fee and watching the construction of the park. A move that has me questioning how honest they are being about their financial security in this project as their website shows that the park is still roughly $10 million dollars short of their financial goals.
(Image: YouTube screen capture)