If you’re a regular reader of “The Wall of Separation,” you know that we’ve written several posts on the so-called “Ark Park” planned for Grant County, Ky.
State officials have agreed to give more than $40 million in various forms of tax breaks and incentives to a group of Christian fundamentalist entrepreneurs who want to build a type of theme park centered around a replica of Noah’s Ark. Among the backers is Answers in Genesis, a prominent creationist ministry run by Ken Ham.
AU attorneys are looking into the matter. For various reasons, it has become increasingly difficult over the years to challenge the diversion of tax breaks and other forms of indirect aid to religion. But we will investigate the situation fully.
A more pressing question is often overlooked: Is this the type of image Kentucky wants to project to the world? The state is already home to a creationist museum, an attraction that has proved popular with fundamentalists but that has embarrassed science educators in the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky officials insist they’re just interested in bringing jobs to a hard-pressed area of the state. Fair enough. But those jobs (many of which will probably be seasonal and at minimum wage) may come at a high cost. If Kentucky gains a reputation as a creationist stronghold, much better jobs in fields like science, high tech and biomedicine may pass the state by.
Is this type of overtly religious attraction a good deal for the state? The New York Times is skeptical. In an editorial today, the newspaper observes, “[G]ranting tax incentives to the explicitly Christian enterprise clearly clashes with the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. Public money is not supposed to pay to advance religion. Kentucky’s citizens should certainly ask themselves if this is really the best use of taxpayer dollars.”
Indeed they should. Some people in Grant County may be so desperate for work that a job slinging hot dogs at a fundamentalist Six Flags sounds pretty good. They may come to regret it when the state gains a reputation as a scientifically illiterate backwater.