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Dec 01 2010

Creation Museum seeks Kentucky tax support

It’s bad enough the Governor was speaking at a press conference with them today. But it’s terrifying now that we know why:

Operators of the popular Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky are seeking state tax incentives to build a creationism theme park at a nearby site — a project that Gov. Steve Beshear officially will announce today .

Mike Zovath, senior vice president of the non-profit group Answers in Genesis, one of the partners in developing the park, said Kentucky officials have told him the proposal for state tourism-development incentives “looks good.”

He said the park — to be called Ark Encounter — would include a massive wooden ark that would offer educational attractions. Additional details weren’t released Tuesday.

[...]The developers are seeking incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, which allows up to 25 percent of the cost of a project to be recovered. Under the law, the state each year returns to developers of approved projects the sales tax paid by visitors on admission tickets, food, gift sales and lodging costs. Developers have 10 years to reach the 25 percent threshold.

Wow. How could funding the freaking Creation Museum not violate the separation of church and state? The only way this place could be considered “educational” is that it educates us on how incredibly wacky some people are. Or if they had a sign every three feet along the “museum” explaining why they’re mind-numbingly wrong. You know, signs showing actual science.

Of course, what do you expect coming out of Kentucky? Wait, what’s that…?

Zovath said Answers in Genesis and its partner, Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit company based in Springfield, Mo., have not finalized plans to build the park in Kentucky and are still considering locating it in Indiana.

OH GOD NOOOO! Not my home state! We’re embarrassing enough…

Seriously though, how could this fly? What’s the logic here?

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for the Family Foundation, said his organization doesn’t believe there would be a problem in giving a tax break to an organization that is “not explicitly religious.””Whether you agree with them or not, they are making a claim that what they are doing is scientific and it’s not necessarily the state’s business to second guess that,” Cothran said.

…Are you fucking kidding me? As someone who’s been to the Museum, they very clearly say that they get all their knowledge from the Bible, and that it’s their goal to make facts mesh with the Bible. They hardly claim that it’s scientific. No, they devote the whole museum to demonizing science and the scientific method.

But even if they do claim to be scientific, it certainly is the state’s business to second guess that! Are we just going to let any religious group throw the word “science” around so they can get funding?

It’s bad enough that Kentucky was unlucky enough to be the home of the Creation Museum. Explicitly helping them will give us a legitimate reason to laugh at the state. Laugh, and then cry.

52 comments

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  1. 1
    Resist Them

    The bottom line, even beyond church & state, is that it is a misrepresentation to call this educational in any possible sense.- Gorilla Atheist

  2. 2
    Trevor Roberts

    Oh, wtf… I hope this doesn’t happen.

  3. 3
    Elle63

    and then there is this:http://thinkprogress.org/2010/

  4. 4
    Gus Snarp

    Oh, we’re considering building it in Indiana – typical threat to convince one state to provide tax incentives or they’ll take the project somewhere else. Indiana’s a stone’s throw away, but are they REALLY going to build their theme park that far from their museum?

  5. 5
    Hilary Mark Nelson

    I emailed Beshear’s office this morning to criticize him for supporting the anti-science crowd. I closed with:

    As a democrat, I’m disappointed that a prominent member of my party is associating with such an anti-science, anti-progress operation. This is the sort of move I’d expect from my own governor, Mitch Daniels, but even he hasn’t gone so far as to support this sort of nonsense.

    I hope that last bit is true, and that Zovath’s comment about “considering locating it in Indiana” doesn’t imply that they’re actually getting any encouragement from our governor.

  6. 6
    Bspondre

    Given a speedway has received the tax incentive it could be argued that being a similar entertainment venue , the creation park is entitled to the tax break.

  7. 7
    Fiona

    But think of the tourist dollar! *ponders* Yes, like Gus said, threats. It’s like pope stuff, they throw money at it for tourism. Or the olympics. But, with more lying and cheating.

  8. 8
    Dm8812

    Next year they should fund a meth lab to encourage learning about chemistry. Considering cooking meth actually IS chemistry it’d be a better use of their money.

  9. 9
    Gus Snarp

    Did you miss the bit about separation of church and state?

  10. 10
    Bspondre

    No I didn’t, I think it is irrelevant in determining eligibility for tax breaks. I am in NZ where religion isn’t the hot button it is in the U.S.A. so I may have a different perspective.The tax breaks are being offered to encourage economic development/growth. Clearly in the U.S. where Christianity is so popular ( unlike NZ where our last prime minister was a feminist atheist) there is a market for this kind of entertainment.

  11. 11
    Gus Snarp

    Actually, I suppose if they were simply set up as a church they wouldn’t pay any taxes at all…

  12. 12
    LadyAtheist

    As a resident of Indiana, I look forward to them attempting to locate here. In contrast to Kentucky, there are some enlightened “souls” here who will put up a fight.

  13. 13
    Gus Snarp

    But there’s a difference between filing the paperwork and getting a tax break and having the Governor work on your behalf and take the leading role in your press announcement. It’s beyond embarrassing to have the Governor stand on stage and talk about how great your theme park is going to be while you turn around and tell the audience you’ll have dinosaurs on the ark, because they were there. I think it’s quite telling, when you watch video of the event, that the Governor assiduously avoids answering any questions about the actual content of the park, and even the park’s promoters try to weasel out of the specifics.

  14. 14
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    The church thing isn’t about right and wrong… it’s about legal. I’m in the UK, and it’s not such a hot button here, either. We may have an established church, but most people don’t care much about it.However, in the US, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the Federal Government from passing any law in respect of a church or faith, or absence of same. This has been held for a very long time as (and was most likely drafted with the intent of) being an absolute barrier on the Federal Government having anything to do with religion whatsoever, positive or negative, so religious organisations (while getting nonprofit status if they are nonprofits) aren’t meant to be subsidised.If you’re thinking “ah, that’s the Federal government, this is a state”, that’s non important, because one of the later amendments extended the Bill of Rights (amendments 1 through 10) to cover all levels of government.So yeah, I’d say there’s at least a prima facie case for considering if this would be a 1st Amendment violation.

  15. 15
    Andrew Hall

    I bet the Saudi’s would give money to the Creationist Museum. They hate science, too.

  16. 16
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    I think they’d have to be a chruch and non-profit. I’m also not sure what non-profit tax exemption covers. In the UK, charitable status confers some tax breaks, but “commercial activity”, even though it’s still for charitable purposes, still attracts VAT (sales tax)

  17. 17
    Andie

    Sadly, they’d probably be able to use the ‘Separation of church and state’ as an argument FOR being able to get the funding. A tourism development boards main concerns, theoretically, is with whether or not an attraction is a viable option for bringing in tourist dollars, and not with the ideology behind it. The Creation people could effectively argue that to deny funding based the idea that they are teaching bunk (which they are) is discriminatory and that the board shouldn’t deny funding because they disagree with creationism, because of the separation of church and state. Sad.

  18. 18
    Andie

    I’ll just take a quick minute to point out that I’m not real familiar with how government subsidies work in the U.S. so if I’ve made a huge ass of myself, please enlighten me.

  19. 19
    Impandpuck

    Someone, don’t know if it is the same group or not, tried to build a Bible Park here in TN in at least two different counties that I know of that were just outside of Nashville. Both times they were turned down and voted out even with “all” their support. Seems that people like the idea until they start needing taxes and state money to help build and fund it. Then even the “supporters” turned their backs. Oh, other concerns were traffic increases, noise increases, and the occasional yell about volition of church and state . So maybe it will fall to the wayside but like you said it is Kentucky and even we Tennessee hillbillies think they are backwards at times, lol.Even if this thing does succeed I highly doubt it will survive. Even regular theme parks are not doing well right now and they have fun things to offer like roller coaster rides. People would much rather buy a giant TV to watch the race then go do something “educational”.

  20. 20
    Frank Bellamy

    Jen, to play devil’s advocate, I think a decent argument can be made that they should get this tax break. Being consistent with known science is not generally a criterion to be considered an educational non-profit. There are many organizations that are classified as educational non-profits which are not specifically focused on science, and which many americans would not consider educational. You are on the board of one of them. And if this is a tax benefit that is available to educational non-profits in general, and which other educational non-profits receive in practice, wouldn’t denying that benefit to this theme park be discriminating against a particular religious view (YEC), thereby arguably violating the constitution?Another question to ask is whether this thing truely is non-profit, or if it is really more like a for-profit theme park. I don’t know enough about the rules for this stuff to guess what the answer to that might be.

  21. 21
    matt

    I’m still depressed by the fact that we have the “Discovery Institute” here in Seasttle.

  22. 22
    Jeffrey A. Myers

    How can a simple Creationist Theme Park possibly compare to the majestic splendor of the Holy Land Experience?

  23. 23
    breadbox

    The Discovery Institute is here to remind us not to get conceited. We may be more secular than the average US city, but we still have a long way to go.(Drawing explicit comparisons between putting up with the DI and the trials of Job are left as an exercise to the demented.)

  24. 24
    Robert B

    I’ve been steaming over this since I heard about it last night.I wrote Gov. Beshear since this actually affects the reputation of the state I got my degrees in.http://wp.me/pBznu-1CRobert B

  25. 25
    Bspondre

    What would an atheist theme park look like ? A large empty space tiled in white with comfortable white couches to allow unimpeded contemplation and projection of ones individual thoughts perhaps.A Pastafarian theme park could be nice. All those pirate ship rides and restaurants serving spaghetti & meat balls.

  26. 26
    kyatheist

    As a Kentuckian, and an atheist, I am furious about this. The tax break is probably legal, but Governor Beshear making a huge announcement about this? I hope any 150 million dollar construction project gets an announcement like this from the governor…though I doubt that will happen. I know that the governor’s race is next year but I think shifting to the right is not what Kentucky needs right now especially from a DEMOCRAT, with Rand Paul as our new Senator *shudder*. Although most Democrats in Kentucky would be “Moderate” Republicans in most other states. I’m tired of this state constantly making me facepalm, must continue searching on how to get out of here.

  27. 27
    Jimbo

    No, they are a for profit company, this is being packaged by the Governor as economic development…

  28. 28
    Jimbo

    The Governor is trying to portray this as economic development. That may not make it more palatable, but honestly that’s what he’s attempting to do. Look, I live in Washington State, where the government did everything short of give Boeing a hummer in public (what they did in private is anyone’s guess) to get them to stay headquartered here. At this point States are trying anything to raise jobs and revenue. If this really brings jobs and revenue to the State, which certainly seems probable, then of course he’s going to pimp it. We don’t have to visit it, and we can and should mock the project mercilessly, but I can’t blame a politician for trying to bring a large scale project to his State.

  29. 29
    Jimbo

    Andie – You’ve certainly not made an ass out of yourself, but I did want to correct a couple of things…Separation of church and state isn’t really applicable here as this is neither a church nor an endorsement of religion. The company is appears to be a for profit LLC.Also, they’re not getting subsidies, but are getting a reduction of taxes in the hope of future revenue generation. As you noted, this is primarily about bringing additional dollars into the State – It’ll probably work, because as P.T. Barnum noted “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

  30. 30
    Not Guilty

    Boyfriend and I cannot WAIT to go! We’re gonna go walk with the dinosaurs, just like our forefathers!

  31. 31
    Egoistpaul

    I think the separation of church and state argument might not work. Creationism is pseudo-science, which might not be considered religion. So, the question is: Is pseudo-science religion? Why and why not?

  32. 32
    Rob

    My guess is that they’ll try to hurdle past any claims that the state is subsidizing religion by calling the museum a cultural attraction or by putting some token piece of legitimate science on display.

  33. 33
    ScottDogg

    Here’s my own little creation account of Ken Ham’s theme park that I posted on Pharyngula a few days ago:1:1 In the beginning, Ham created the Noah’s Flood Theme Park.1:2 And Ham said, Let there be Funds: and the Funds were formed from the donations to the Ministry. And the evening and the morning were the first day.1:3 And Ham said, Let there be Construction Workers: and Ham employed the Workers with the Funds. And the evening and the morning were the second day.1:4 And Ham said, Let there be waters gathered unto one place, and he called the waters Flood. And Ham declared “This One is local, but the Real One was Global”. And the evening and the morning were the third day.1:5 And Ham said, Let the Workers bring forth a Full Scale Replica of the Ark upon the waters, to rock back and forth so passengers vomit Demons: and it was so. And the Workers did according unto all that the LORD Ham commanded them. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.1:6 And Ham said, Let there be brought forth a bunch of Creepy Animatronic Animals and Humans shovelling Stinky Manure: and the robotic numbskull magnets were brought forth by the loyal Workers. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.1:7 And Ham said, Let there be a Gift Shop full of Kitschy overpriced Crap at the exit of the Theme Park, and let it divide the Suckers from their Money: thence the Gift Shop and all its commercialised Glory were created on the LORD Ham’s behalf.1:8 And Ham breathed into its nostrils the breath of life, and the Park became a living Tourist Attraction. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.1:9 And Ham saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good for the Economy. And Ham called the Park “The Crappiest Place On Earth”.1:10 And on the seventh day, Ham rested from all his work which he made, and smoked a Fat Blunt.

  34. 34
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Well, in this case they’ll (apparently) be using explicitly religious imagery and language. So…

  35. 35
    Stephan

    Did they just say that the Museum is not explicitly religious? Not only is it explicitly Christian, it is explicitly Protestant as they demonize Catholics. They should be denied government funds for simply being religiously discriminatory themselves.

  36. 36
    Berlezbub

    Not to mention that if the Theme Park follows the same rules as the Mausoleum, then employment will be selective. Everyone who works at the Mausoleum has to sign the AiG Statement of Faith, so the only people they will hire are those who believe their crap, or those who will pretend to believe their crap just to feed themselves and their families.

  37. 37
    LadyAtheist

    I think it would be a series of ecosystems, like a combination zoo & terrarium, with aquatic tanks for salt water & fresh water. And an observatory. It could have a museum of religion, filled with information about all the fairy tales of the world.

  38. 38
    chicago dyke

    the best i can do is to say i’ve got $20 for the secular legal organization that challenges giving these people any tax breaks or givebacks.

  39. 39
    Vanessa

    How is an ark themepark not an endorsement of religion?

  40. 40
    zen

    I don’t know about new zeland, but motor speedways in the US generally don’t proselytize and promise a scientific learning adventure based on religious fables. Sure, they may say a prayer at the beginning of the race, but participation isn’t mandatory and it isn’t the focus of the event.

  41. 41
    zen

    Actually, the park would be a very _specific_ endorsement of religion. The fact that it’s for profit only further corrupts the establishment issue.That said, I thing andies posit that they might actually use the establishment clause on their behalf is doubtful. I’m thinking they’re far more likely to get money from the faith-based services fund, under the auspices that they’re creating an educational experience.

  42. 42
    zen

    That was a large dose of awesomness…thanks scott

  43. 43
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Hmmm… well, the natural history museum, possibly with the science museum as well, in London. Actually, that matches thematically with what LadyAtheist said in her first paragraph…Alternatively, it could be a series of interactive experiences about evidence, with illustrative examples, and the difference between postulate, hypothesis and theory. To capture the spirit of the atheist community, it would also include rides based on off-the-wall humour…

  44. 44
    Vincenzo Lisciandrello

    Separation of Church and State act, should actually be called, “Separation of Church and State(when it’s convenient for us) act.” I always found it odd that the taxes placed on Cigarettes and Alcohol and the like is called a “sin” tax. Wait…sin isn’t political. It’s religious. How can they tax sins, if the church and state are separated? It’s all about political convenience.If it’s easier for the politicians to use religion, it’s no longer a separate thing. However, once religion becomes inconvenient for them, it becomes separate again. Most courts hold people to an oath on a holy bible. Why? Isn’t the court state? When did they become religion? And why do people get to crusade against things, and run to the politicians, screaming, and shouting about how something is against the bible? Shouldn’t it be entirely out of the state’s hands? Clearly not.The Separation of Church and State act is more flexible than a contortionist. And there’s a reason it’s called an ‘act’…because that’s all it is. Few bears on balls, dogs jumping through burning hoops, and some pretty colors. They figure if they show enough of the same old song and dance, people won’t know hypocrisy when it comes up and slugs them in the face.

  45. 45
    Collin

    And now there’s a new update… http://gizmodo.com/5704576/yes…They’re putting dinosaurs on it x.x

  46. 46
    Beyond Dimensions

    You could just go to Dinosaur World in Cave City, KY for that. They even have a Photosaurusrex. Oooh… I know, exciting, right?

  47. 47
    Bruce Coppola

    Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur!(Boom Boom AckalackaBoomBoom!)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  48. 48
    Ben Lever

    Exactly. The point of this specific kind of tax break is to raise revenue for the state – the goal being that they will spend less than they get back in tourist dollars. Which is why I wasn’t so entirely pissed about World Youth Day (a Catholic event) costing the Aussie tax payers money, because it brought in so much outside cash.I don’t like the event but I don’t like the Olympics much either. You’ve gotta spend money to make money, I guess.

  49. 49
    Andrew Hall

    I’m hoping to be a sex worker at the Noah’s Ark Theme Park.http://www.laughinginpurgatory

  50. 50
    Guest

    oh FSM, kentucky – ::facepalm::i love my home state, but for the love of fuck…so damn backwards. sorry, y’all. it’s not all of us.

  51. 51
    Sam Barnett-Cormack

    Just as a Point of Information, it’s not a matter of an Act of Congress, it’s not a Separation of Church and State Act, it’s the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US *Constitution*.

  52. 52
    PixieDragon323

    I’m a Kentuckian from about 20 miles away from that Museum, and I can tell you that actually, as a whole, the area REALLY hates that Museum. They fought for years to get the permits to build the Museum in Boone County and the County wouldn’t rezone the lots they wanted, so eventually, after something like almost a decade, they moved the site to Bullittsburg. However, as we all love the freedom of speech act, they couldn’t actually prevent them from building the Museum, only stall and hopefully make them move it somewhere more remote, which they did. Give Kentucky a break you guys.

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