I mentioned earlier this week that the folks behind the Creation Museum were working on “Ark Encounter,” a Noah’s Ark-based theme park, and the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority just gave preliminary approval for tax incentives that could be worth more than $18,000,000:
The incentive program’s rules say that if preliminary approval is granted, the authority would then select a consultant — at Ark Encounter’s expense — to study the project to see if it meets the program’s criteria, including that the project get at least 25 percent of its visitors from out of state after four years and having an overall positive impact on the state budget.
After the consultant’s analysis is complete — a process that takes six to eight weeks — the authority would meet to consider final approval.
Because this is a religious project with the intent of proselytizing, groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State are threatening a lawsuit if final approval is given.
This week, even Kentucky’s House Speaker Greg Stumbo expressed that this just sounds like a problem waiting to happen:
Stumbo said he understands that Grant County needs more economic development but that the use of state incentives is unconstitutional “because it erects a monument with the help of state money theoretically that is recognized by a majority religion in this country.”
He quickly added that he believes in that religion.
“But there is separation of church and state,” and the state cannot pick one religion over another, Stumbo said.
He predicted a legal challenge against the incentives, “and we’ll end up losing the lawsuit as a state, and we will have to pay legal fees to ACLU or whoever it is.“
It’s worth noting that Gov. Steve Beshear is also a Democrat like Stumbo, but he supports the Ark Park.
Stumbo’s political opponents are already denouncing his comments:
State Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, expressed disappointment Thursday over House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s comments this week that the state should not provide tax incentives for a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.
“While Kentucky continues to lose jobs to places like Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, Speaker Stumbo chooses to attack an economic development project in my community by encouraging lawsuits on tax incentives,” Linder said.
Linder called Stumbo’s comments about the park and religion disingenuous.
“While the speaker has an issue with a religious theme park receiving tax incentives to provide jobs, he apparently has no problem occupying a chair in the House chambers that has, in large letters, the motto ‘In God We Trust’ behind it,” he said.
Linder is just talking out of his ass. Stumbo isn’t encouraging a lawsuit. He’s warning state officials that that’s what could happen if they make a foolish decision. Linder, on the other hand, seems to not care about what the Constitution says if a ministry could bring in money to the state.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)