The Ark Encounter theme park is facing a flood of negative press after news broke on Tuesday of its dispute with Kentucky state officials over hiring practices.
Through open records requests, the Louisville Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader both discovered the developing conflict, reporting that the state has warned the park’s owners that it will not allow public funds to support religious discrimination.
“Ark Encounter, which is slated to open in 2016 in Williamstown, Kentucky, is not hiring anyone yet, but its parent company Answers in Genesis asks employees to sign a faith statement including a belief in creationism and the flood,” Reuters reported. The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is threatening to revoke promised tax incentives if The Ark Encounter uses the faith statement during its hiring process.
The key issue “is an online job post for a computer technician tasked with working on the ark,” MSNBC reported. Although Answers in Genesis maintains that the posting was for the parent company not the Ark Encounter, state officials claim that the listed requirement of a “salvation testimony” was enough to raise red flags.
If the disagreement is not resolved, Ark Encounter could lose more than $18 million in tax rebates over a 10-year period, Reuters explained.
The theme park’s executive president, Mike Zovath, told Reuters that the company is committed to fighting back against unfair limitations on its religious rights. “We’re hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn’t go further than this,” he said.
NPR reported on the tax breaks in July, noting that the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Board voted unanimously to approve the incentives. An earlier NPR article explored Answers in Genesis’ struggle to fund the park, the construction of which is predicted to cost $150 million.
Answers in Genesis is also the company behind the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, a site dedicated, according to its website, to bringing “the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings.”
Ark Encounter has a similar mission, given that it was designed to bring the story of Noah and the flood to life, complete with a petting zoo. As Deseret News National reported in a list of unique religious theme parks around the world, “the big boat will be based on the dimensions provided in Genesis 6, which should make it the largest timber-framed structure in the United States.”
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