"Kentucky's Tourism Arts & Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart informed representatives of the proposed Ark Encounter tourist attraction today that their project will not be eligible for up to $18 million in tax incentives from the state, due to their refusal to pledge not to discriminate in hiring based on religion," Insider Louisville (December 10, 2014) reports.
As NCSE previously reported, in 2011, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted to grant tax incentives — in the form of retained sales taxes — to the proposed creationist theme park in northern Kentucky, to be run by Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit company, and the young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis.
The state agency's decision prompted concerns about whether it would be consistent with the federal and Kentucky constitutions for the state to grant the incentives to the project, but there was no consensus, and until recently all signs were that the state remained willing for Ark Encounter to benefit from the tax incentives.
In Stewart's letter, dated December 10, 2014, however, he writes, with a notable choice of verb, that "it is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourism attraction to an extension of AIG's ministry that will no longer permit the Commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives."
"There are two reasons for this conclusion," Stewart explained in his letter. "1) [T]he Commonwealth will not grant incentives to a company that intends to discriminate in hiring its employees based on religion; and 2) It is a violation of the Constitution for the Commonwealth's incentives to be used to advance religion."
Daniel Phelps of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, a persistent critic of Answers in Genesis and Ark Encounter, told NCSE, "I am glad to see that Tourism did the right thing after the bigoted hiring practices of Ark Encounter and its convoluted relationship with Answers in Genesis and the Creation 'Museum' were exposed."