Kentucky officials decided against fighting a federal court ruling that supports giving tax breaks to a Christian theme park that features a 510-foot long replica of Noah’s Ark.
A spokeswoman for Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said on Jan. 26 the state had no plans to appeal the tax break ruling for the Ark Encounter park, and that it supported District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove’s ruling, reported The Associated Press.
The decision came after state tourism officials under the previous governor told the group building the theme park, Answers in Genesis, that they would be blocked from seeking a tax incentive because of the park’s religious themes.
“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry,” state tourism secretary Bob Stewart told AP at the time. “However, state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion.”
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The new ruling was praised by Answers in Genesis as a victory for religious freedom. The incentive could be worth up to $18 million.
“This administration does not support discrimination against any worthy economic development projects,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Jessica Ditto, said in a statement after the 2016 ruling.
The decision was met with some criticism, with opponents believing the judge made the wrong call because the ark uses taxpayer money to promote Christian beliefs.
“Sometimes we see decisions that we disagree with, and other times we see decisions that simply get the law wrong -- and this ark park decision falls squarely into the latter category,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State senior counsel Greg Lipper said.