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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Noah's ark lands in midst of state and church separation debate

By Melissa Bell
Ark Encounter
A sketch of the planned Ark Encounter.

The ship that saved "two of each" species from a worldwide flood, according to the Bible, has been discovered a number of times over the years. The last discovery placed Noah's ark on the top of Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.

Then there are the replications of the ark. A contractor in Netherlands built a version by hand, opening it to the public in 2007. Hong Kong has a Noah's ark hotel, with fiberglass animals.

Now, if the governor of Kentucky has his way, American tourists will be able to find the ark much closer to home. Gov. Steven L. Beshear announced on Wednesday that the Kentucky government would provide tax incentives to a group planning on constructing a Noah's ark theme park called "Ark Encounter."

A full-size version of the ship, replete with actors and animals, would rise in Grant County, just 45 miles away from the Creation Museum, where life-size dioramas have humans coexisting with dinosaurs. The park is planned to open in 2014.

The New York Times says some constitutional experts have questioned the governor's tax incentives, wondering if the move violates the First Amendment's requirement of separation of church and state.

"The people of Kentucky didn't elect me governor to debate religion," Beshear said to the New York Times in a news conference. "They elected me governor to create jobs."

The Creation Museum, was built by the same group, Answers in Genesis, behind Ark Encounter. The Web site reports that in the past three years, 1.2 million guests have visited the Creation Museum.

The tourist attraction will cost $125 million to build, and the group could receive up to $37.5 million back under the tax incentive plan.

Mike Zovath, co-founder of Answers in Genesis, said in a phone interview that the company was not concerned about this being a constitutional issue. "It's a for-profit company. The state is incentivizing economic growth and job creation, it's not incentivizing religious opinion." He said the government of Kentucky and his company had run the legal issues by a number of experts and that, in fact, the state would be discriminating if they did not offer the company the tax incentive.

By Melissa Bell  | December 6, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
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Comments

The Creation Museum.... lol ... stupid-is-as-stupid does!

Posted by: ANTGA | December 6, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

This so obviously violates the first amendment. If you want to build your religious brain washing park, go ahead, but you should not get help from tax payers for it.

Posted by: smt123 | December 7, 2010 3:13 AM | Report abuse

And I am very excited to announce a new tourism development project in nearby New Jerusalem, KY -- the Holy Water Park and Heavenly Rapture Sky Slide. Admission free to the saved; steep price for sinners.

Posted by: jaaayyyzzzeee | December 7, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

While U.S. students continue to decline in worldwide educational evaluations, politicians continue to use tax payer funds to further their own narrow prejudices. It's creationism over science and make believe over reality.

What will be the legacy of the United States to the future - a fairy tale theme park?

Posted by: TomMiller1 | December 8, 2010 6:10 AM | Report abuse

I have a few strong objections to this project. It is being billed as based on a true story. The Great Flood in Genesis never happened, nor did anything else in the Bible. The "Holy" Bible is the worst book of fiction ever written. It should be classified Horror/Fiction. To teach it to children as true history is FRAUD. "Creation/Intelligent Design" must never be taught as fact especially in Science Classes. Evolution is proven FACT.
The $125 million would be better spent helping the poor and disadvantaged and sick.
This "Answers in Genesis" mob should be closed down before they do any more harm to the USA, or as I think it should be called the United Christian States of America. These FundaMENTAist Bible Thumping Christians are turning America into a Third World Nation with the Poison of Religion they are spreading.

Posted by: roberttobin | December 8, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

"This so obviously violates the first amendment."

I really don't think this is that obvious.

It is a business catering to some audience that is willing to shell out $$$ for some service. This business will generate jobs.

I think it is perfectly within the right of the state government to make this deal.

Now, it needs to be treated as such. As soon as the weasel CEO tries to demand religious tax breaks, the deal is off.

Oh yeah ... when the Scientologists come over to create a theme park for L Ron Hubbard ... better say "Yes" to that too!

If the people of this state want to subsidize this nonsense, it is their right to waste their own money.

Now, don't come begging to the federal government for handouts. This is your own state funds. Don't complain later if it turns out this business didn't turn a profit so you got no tax revenue from it.

Frankly, I am a fan of the Tea Party people when they say they don't want Federal handouts to these states. I say, "YOU ARE RIGHT! NO $$$ FOR YOU!"

Posted by: ernesthua | December 9, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"This so obviously violates the first amendment."

I really don't think this is that obvious.

It is a business catering to some audience that is willing to shell out $$$ for some service. This business will generate jobs.

I think it is perfectly within the right of the state government to make this deal.

Now, it needs to be treated as such. As soon as the weasel CEO tries to demand religious tax breaks, the deal is off.

Oh yeah ... when the Scientologists come over to create a theme park for L Ron Hubbard ... better say "Yes" to that too!

If the people of this state want to subsidize this nonsense, it is their right to waste their own money.

Now, don't come begging to the federal government for handouts. This is your own state funds. Don't complain later if it turns out this business didn't turn a profit so you got no tax revenue from it.

Frankly, I am a fan of the Tea Party people when they say they don't want Federal handouts to these states. I say, "YOU ARE RIGHT! NO $$$ FOR YOU!"

Posted by: ernesthua | December 9, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

"To teach it to children as true history is FRAUD."

There are already many churches and other organizations, including the Creation Museum, that teach this line of thinking. The theme park isn't alone in this.

These people are perfectly entitled to screw up their children's future, and allow us Chinese and Indian engineers and scientists to take over all the high paying jobs.

Don't mess up such a good thing for us.

Posted by: ernesthua | December 9, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

It should not be built with tax payer money simply because it is Biblically inaccurate. The Ark was a box, not a boat. The word itself, including the old Hebrew version, meant box. It did not have to sail, it needed only float. A boat shape would have been unstable, and would have need tons of stone at ballast. The animals would have been sick the whole time from the rocking. The boat shape is bash more on mythology than even those who think the bible is.

Posted by: George1McCasland | December 9, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

It should not be built with tax payer money simply because it is Biblically inaccurate. The Ark was a box, not a boat. The word itself, including the old Hebrew version, meant box. It did not have to sail, it needed only float. A boat shape would have been unstable, and would have need tons of stone at ballast. The animals would have been sick the whole time from the rocking. The boat shape is bash more on mythology than even those who think the bible is.

Posted by: George1McCasland | December 9, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Always amazing to read the ignorant bigots. The 1st ammendment forbids congress creating laws respecting "an establishment of religion".
The Noah's ark account is found in Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam. Since this job creation incentive was open to all, it's clearly within the constraints of Constitution.

Posted by: Reggir | December 9, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

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