Last week, the state of Kentucky unanimously passed a $43 million tax break to fund a controversial Bible-themed Ark amusement park.
The park will promote an interactive environment where visitors can take part in understanding the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark. But it will also promote the more extreme view that the world is 6,000 years old, and that Christian man and dinosaur co-existed.
This initiative is a travesty for Kentucky politics. Giving tax breaks to a radical group shows that the state’s leaders aren’t pushing Kentucky forward, but instead are failing their citizens by providing political leverage to a fringe religious group’s circus. There are far more serious issues, such as health care or education, that these leaders need to consider.
The park’s organizers — Answers in Genesis, a left-field religious group which runs the state’s controversial Creation Museum — said the $43 million tax incentives are necessary to build the theme park, which they claim will draw 1.6 million visitors from around the world and employ some 900 people. And the state, being low on cash, gladly acquiesced.
This leads to the obvious question of separation of church and state, but worse still, a question over whether or not a state government should promote a group that advocates such a far from mainstream view that dinosaurs were among the occupants of Noah’s Ark and co-existed with Biblical figures. The issue paints Kentucky negatively. Now the state will not just be associated with fried chicken, but also viewed as a haven for comical religious groups.
Clearly Kentucky’s elected officials are at the bottom of the barrel, in terms of attracting more serious business endeavors. Or maybe they just gave up on realistic economic development strategies. Surely the Kentucky governor thought to invest in education, manufacturing, or the tech sector before deciding to make tax incentives available to a bizarre religious group. Was Gov. Steve Beshear so out of ideas that he thought the only way to add much-needed revenue to the state was through a dinosaur-Ark Park? The state has the tax breaks to give, so why can’t smart decisions be made on how to use it?
Finding better alternatives for this tax break is easy. Giving tuition waivers worth $43 million to in-state university students, who have seen tuition jump 130 percent at the largest schools since 2001, would have been a better investment. Paying graduates from the hard sciences or engineering fields and requiring them to find in-state jobs could boost the state’s intellectual power and create new high-end jobs.
The state also consistently lags in other national indicators: physical and mental health andpoverty levels. Using $43 million in tax incentives to address any of these issues would undoubtedly help Kentucky tackle long-term, serious concerns.
But Kentucky officials think the answer to the state’s ills lies in Noah riding to heaven on a pterodactyl. The state has provided radicals a chance to further pollute Kentucky’s already negative image.
It’s also hard to think the Ark Park will appeal to mainstream Christians. T-Rex and Stegosaurus will roam with antelope and lions, in some bizarre equal harmony. The Bible doesn’t say that this was the case — nor is it any sort of scientific fact — yet the Ark Park will tell young visitors that this was true. Maybe the giant Ark will also turn into a spaceship on the Mayan date for the end of the world, transporting visitors to salvation.
Kentucky’s leadership is showing that it is incapable of creative thinking when asked to fix the state’s many woes. More so, they are showing the world that the state is hardly progressive. Their next endeavor could be to make the state tourism logo, “Heaven is a Brontosaurus and bucket of chicken.” Maybe that would help state coffers.
Photo Credit: Wiki143.com