While cutting education, Kentucky gives $43 million tax break to creationism theme park

In December, I reported that the Kentucky creationism theme park set to open in 2014 will “include dinosaurs.” The park “will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes.”  It will also include “a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits.”

TPM “” the source of this photo illustration — called it the “Park of the Covenant.”

Now the park has been granted $43 million in state tax breaks.  At the same time, “the state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years,” including cuts to “education at all levels” and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers.

The National Center for Science Education has said of creationism that “students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level.”

Think Progress has more details on the state support, which raises questions about the separation of church and state:

A group of private investors and religious organizations is hoping to build a Bible-themed amusement park in Kentucky…  Their effort got a shot in the arm yesterday when the state approved $43 million in tax breaks for the project. In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state’s tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.

Naturally, this raises serious questions about the separation of church and state. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has threatened to sue the state over its promotion of the religious project:

“The state of Kentucky should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help.”

Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has been a strong proponent of the $150 million project, even holding a press conference at the Capitol yesterday to tout the state’s involvement. Saying there’s nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about taxpayers incentivizing the Ark park, Beshear said, “The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion. They elected me governor to create jobs.” Daniel Phelps, a geologist and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, called the governor’s support of the proposal “embarrassing for the state.”

Beyond constitutional issues, the tax breaks for an amusement park come at a time when state leaders are asking residents to sacrifice as they cut important social programs….

And while developers say the economic benefits of the Ark park will make up for the cost of the tax breaks “” pointing to Kentucky’s recently opened Creation Museum “” not all are convinced. Indeed, after lengthy consideration, Tennessee declined to give tax breaks to a similar proposed project, Bible Park USA, concerned that it was not a sound investment of taxpayer dollars.

Perhaps proponents of taxpayers subsidizing Bible theme parks forgot the gospel of Matthew, who wrote, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

And folks wonder why China and other countries have surpassed us in clean energy, while we remain stuck on dinosaur fuels!

41 Responses to While cutting education, Kentucky gives $43 million tax break to creationism theme park

  1. Michael Tucker says:

    Kentucky cuts education at all levels while it supports subsidizes for a fundamentalist Christian theme park. That makes perfect sense. Education would just get in the way of the Ark park experience. However, I doubt the park will cause Kentucky any embarrassment.

  2. Job creation? Or job redistribution?

    Moving jobs out of a sector dedicated to making people smarter, and into a sector dedicated to making people more stupid.

    Looks like job redistribution to me — along with stupidity creation.


  3. Matter says:

    Who cares?

    Jesus comes back tomorrow anyway!

  4. Yet not one dime for the Flying Spaghetti Monster !

  5. Douglas says:

    Are they building it in a flood plain? Please tell me yes. With the increasing precip in this region …

  6. Zetetic says:

    It’s not even surprising anymore.

    Governor Rick Perry in Texas is planning to put $25 million into Formula 1 racing while gutting education, why should Kentucky be any different?

  7. John Tucker says:

    As an aside flood mythology is somewhat interesting by its spread across belief systems. There was some interest recently in reconciling the various flood accounts into a event narrative of a comet impact occurring at around May 10, 2807 B.C. off Madagascar.

    “When a comet rounds the sun, oftentimes its tail is still being blown forward by the solar winds so that it actually precedes it. That is why so many descriptions of comets in mythology mention that they are wearing horns.” In India, he notes, a celestial fish described as “bright as a moonbeam,” with a horn on its head, warned of an epic flood that brought on a new age of man. ( )

    Im not sure what, if anything became of it.

    Certainly organized religion can totally ruin it for serious scientific study and no matter that several cultures mention floods I see one religion in particular somehow sees even the slightest basis in reality of its rather uncreative common mythology as proof of its theology. Even though others mention it first and in greater detail and no matter that the whole mess is an exercise in plagiarism and appropriations.

  8. nyc-tornado-ten says:

    The generation that preceeded the flood had values that were remarkably similar to america’s capitalist “survival of the fittest” values, where the strong exploit the weak. Noah was a very accomplished man in his time, he improved agricultural technology, but when his prophesy conflicted with the “lifestyle” of the times, and the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit society, they ingnored him. Noah predicted a global climate catastrophe, he was laughed at. Is today’s NOAA any different?

  9. catch22 says:

    Dark age ahead.

  10. Douglas says:

    Teacher-basher Gov. Christie in NJ has no problem bailing out failed mall developments with state funds.

    Not that I’m surprised.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    The best thing ever written about the Kentucky Creation Museum, by my buddy Ian Murphy:

    Humor is definitely called for in this situation.

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    John Tucker #7. Immanuel Velikovsky explored the commonalities in myths around the world and their basis in the reality of a global catastrophe in ‘Worlds in Collision’ (1950), ‘Ages in Chaos’ (1952), ‘Earth in Upheaval’ (1955) and others. He came up with a remarkably similar date but a different explanation, ME

  13. Jim Groom says:

    Shameful and even worse, just plain stupid. What the hell is wrong with people in this country? The voters keep putting these idiots in charge so I suppose we should not be surprised at the results. I certainly hope that in 2012 the truly moronic are tossed out of office and thinking (if they can be found) representatives take their place. As to Kentucky, I just feel sorry for the intelligent members of that society.

  14. Ethan Von Braun says:

    Kentucky is due for an earthquake.

  15. Russell says:

    Hopefully Kentucky will provide Ham with a research grant to replace the pitch on the Ark with a white roof capable of resisting 40 days and 40 nights of continuous rainfall

  16. Zetetic says:

    @ John Tucker #7:
    A simpler explanation is that since most towns and cities started up either near bodies of water, or on flood plains that are prone to flooding (rivers, lakes, oceans), it’s not surprising that many cultures have different flood mythologies. Most cultures also have myths surrounding the sun, food, war, marriage, and other things that most cultures have in common. It’s also important to note that while many cultures have flood myths, they tend to have a great many differences as well between their respective flood myths. Last I heard nothing came of the research that you linked to, but it’s not impossible.

    As an aside, I also have to wonder if some of what they are attributing to a comet impact was in fact the volcanic destruction of Minoan empire between 1627 BCE and 1600 BCE at the island of Thera.


    @ Merrelyn Emery #12:
    About Immanuel Velikovsky, it’s important to keep in mind that he was a psychologist (not an archeologist nor an astronomer/astrophysicist) that invented wildly implausible astrophysical scenarios to try and justify many myths. While myths can sometimes provide some clues/insight in past natural disasters, such arguments need to be backed up with scientific evidence, which Velikovsky almost never bothered to acquire to justify his claims. His claims….That an early Saturn, with the Earth as one of it’s moons, entered a “nova state” that caused Noah’s flood before attaining it’s current orbit; that Venus was ejected from Jupiter within the history of civilization; have been refuted by scientific evidence but are still being used to justify many other non-scientific beliefs such as the “electric universe”, etc. since they are sensationalistic but lack any scientific rigor.

  17. We have a technical term for this kind of behaviour around my office: “cranial rectal inversion disorder.” :)

  18. paulm says:

    Gillard Trumps Abbott

    JULIA Gillard has described Tony Abbott of acting “like the love child of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump”.

  19. paulm says:

    More and More, the Boreal Will Burn
    Wildfire, beetles, climate change and their combustible connections.

    Wildfires ripping through Alberta’s boreal forest or what government officials call “freakish” firestorms are really a snapshot of how warming global temperatures and intensified insect infestations will change the nation’s boreal forest, say scientists.

    In the last week nearly 100 wildfires, battled by 1,000 forest fighters, have shut in billions of dollars worth of oil and gas facilities and forced the evacuation of 2,000 oil workers from Fort McMurray to Peace River.

    One raging inferno, driven by 100 kilometre winds, destroyed a third of the community of Slave Lake north of Edmonton. That smoky region is also chock full of dead trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, another harbinger of changing global weather patterns.

    Alberta’s wildfires are very “consistent with what we’d expect for climate change,” says Mike Flannigan, a senior fire researcher with Natural Resources Canada. “We are beginning to see fire episodes that are much more severe and much more common and not just in Canada.”

  20. Zetetic says:

    BTW it should be mentioned that the “Flood Museum” was given tax breaks upon a rather specious claim that it would provide a whopping 3,000 full-time jobs (yes, that’s what they claim under their “optimistic” projection) and that it would bring in an even more laughable 1.6 million visitors per year! Apparently they got the idea that there would be 1.6 million visitor from an opinion poll on what legendary archeological discovery people would most like to visit, if it was real.

    Also, all Answers in Genesis employees must sign a “statement of faith” in order to be employed by AiG.
    “Separation of Church and State? Why do you ask abo… LOOK! Haley’s Comet!”

    Oh and they are also planing on expanding to include a life size “Solomon’s Temple”. But don’t worry, they promise us that “it’s not going to be some kind of secular temple where all sorts of weird religious ceremonies are held.” [emphasis added]
    No, I did not make up that last part.


  21. Chris (from Vancouver) says:

    If these fossils fuels are less than 6000 years old, does that make them renewable? Or maybe God can just make us some more if we’re really pray.

  22. Ziyu says:

    3 loopholes in the May 21 doomsday scenario.

  23. Zetetic says:

    @ Chris (from Vancouver) #19:
    Even though you were joking you’re actually not that far off. Many creationists believe in “abiotic” oil, meaning that they believe that it is produced not by ancient long buried organisms (since the Earth can’t be that old), but geochemically deep in the Earth and is therefore a “renewable” resource that will always regenerate over time. Of course just like with creationism, they don’t let a complete lack of credible evidence get in the way of their beliefs.

    This is one of the reasons why many creationists (and some non-creationists) don’t believe in peak oil.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Zetetic, I wonder if the Creationists know that the ‘abiotic oil’ theory was formulated in that Carmnist Hell, the USSR, reportedly by the KGB as a means to get the feelthy capitalists to keep their foolish dependency on hydrocarbons. The Chinese must be smiling, too, as their students head international tables of comparative ability, and they produce tens of thousands of PhDs per year, not a ‘creationist’ Dunning-Krugerite amongst them.
    In Australia, one of the most pernicious of the scores of evils inflicted on this country by the Howard/Rudd/Dullard pathocracy, has turned out to be the ‘school chaplains’ program. Introduced by Howard, over furious objections by teachers and many parents, it introduced chaplains into supposedly secular public schools. Exactly as predicted, and, no doubt, given Howard’s record and character, which was an open book, planned, these positions have been filled by proselytising spiritual molesters, whose work to ‘win disciples for Christ’ is causing an uproar. Stories of children coming home to inform the parents that they are all going to hell, along with the Moslems and other untermenschen, abound. But, showing that this project is well prepared, children whose parents demand their non-attendance, are treated as if being punished. They do not go to the library to study or such like, but are made to sit, idly, in corridors, outside the headmaster’s office, or in one case, inside a broom closet.
    To show, for the umpteenth time, that vicious, Rightwing, misrule is now bi-partisan in our ‘democracy without choices’, the Rudd regime kept this brainwashing into mediocrity in place, and the Dullard regime granted it 200 million in the last Budget to be expanded. To show that the fruits of this project, veritable ‘grapes of wrath’, are already being harvested, a march in favour of gay rights in Adelaide was attacked by aggressive, abusive, ‘Christian youth’, with an all-too familiar message of raw hatred, all in the name of ‘The Prince of Peace’. Both parties, and our Rightwing rulers, no doubt see an ever-increasingly debased Rightwing citizenry as being to their advantage. These Rightwing Christian zealots generally hate environmentalists with real vigour, too.

  25. Richard Brenne says:

    When the Ed Hummel Jet Stream (so-named in tribute to him more than the end result of any sponsorship deal) meanders north to south for so long that heavy rains get stuck over Kentucky for – you guessed it – 40 days and 40 nights the ark will be swept away with some rather confused juvenile giraffes inside, and some equally confused and confusing dinosaurs.

  26. Peter M says:

    “Considerin­g this state ranks near the bottom for; education; health care for its citizens; the environmen­t; quality of Life- it seems the state legislatur­e should be working to remedy real problems, not moral or religious engineerin­g.”

  27. Lionel A says:

    zetec on abiotic oil.

    Yes I have come across this and also a belief in an expanding Earth which accounts for the neat tear that makes the east coast of S. America follow the west coast of Africa and that subduction doesn’t happen.

    All this on the belief of an artist and armchair scientist of Velikovsky-like skipping over inconvenient facts Conspiracy of Science – Earth is in fact growing. This is also the exact mindset that questions AGW and joins AiG.

  28. Brigitta says:

    This is not a church/state issue. The tax break helps the project get approved. The arguments are similar to building stadiums. Is this entire project being paid for by the developer or our public funds used? If so and if the project generates jobs and million of visitors a year, then it will generate money for the community/state. This is an economic benefit and is usually part of the development proposal.

    Our economy needs optimistic projects. If the private sector is generating jobs and paying to develop viable projects, it can’t be that negative.

    Cutting the education budget is another issue. On that note, with shrinking budgets there needs to be more emphasis on eliminating wasteful projects that don’t generate money or positive results. The real concern is who decides on the community’s priorities. Arguments arise on our different opinions.

  29. TomG says:

    The reasoning behind cutting education is a no-brainer.
    If the kids aren’t educated they can’t challenge the “Beliefs”.

  30. Zetetic says:

    @ Brigitta:
    The first problem is that in all probability will not produce “millions” of visitors a year, that is an absolutely made-up number by AiG. The claim of 3,000 jobs was also never properly established in a unbiased formal study of the project. So right off the bat the claims that are being used to justify the expense and the tax breaks are at best completely unfounded and possibly fraudulent.

    The second problem is that they aren’t just getting $43 million in tax breaks from a group that can afford to operate with out them, but the state is also paying another $11 million to “improve” the roads to the park and providing other benefits.

    Third is the problem that all employees of Answers in Genesis must sign a statement of faith that they believe only in Christianity and a literal “6-days, 6,000 years ago” account of the Bible and reject all other faiths and all science that contradicts that narrow dogma (biology, physics, archeology, etc.).
    Jobs at Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum
    The AiG Statement of Faith
    Therefore you have it being built and run by an organization that clearly discriminates upon a very narrow set of religious beliefs.

    Fourth is that the AiG actively promotes this very narrow view of young earth creationism Christianity though its organization, its “Creation Museum”, its Creationist “Science Fairs” for children, and soon the Ark Park which claims that all of the Bible (even Noah’s flood) is literally true and that any science telling you otherwise is part of a conspiracy to keep you from Jesus Christ.

    Fifth is that AIG is a fairly well funded religious group that already gets generous tax breaks due to it’s status as a religious organization, and that could probably afford to build the park without such breaks.

    So while I agree that the government should promote helping the economy, I fail to see any good reason to provide such breaks and incentives to this particular project, especially at a time when important services are being cut. Nor do I see how it can in anyway *not* be seen as a deliberate violation of church and state when AiG is deliberately promoting a very narrow and dogmatic religious message and requiring even it’s employees to sign a statement to that effect. In short there are better things the state could be spending it’s money on without specifically helping to promote a very narrow religious dogma.

  31. Brigitta:

    > Cutting the education budget is another issue. On that note, with shrinking budgets there needs to be more emphasis on eliminating wasteful projects that don’t generate money or positive results. The real concern is who decides on the community’s priorities. Arguments arise on our different opinions.

    Oh wow… cutting education (and slashing jobs therein) just might be a good thing because it’s a “wasteful project” that doesn’t immediately make money?

    Is someone really making this claim for real?


  32. Ed Hummel says:

    I’ve always thought that fundamentalists of any religious persuasion only believe what they do because it’s a lot easier than actually doing the work of trying to understand physical reality as gradually revealed by difficult and painstaking research over many centuries of effort by people actually using their brains. Fundamentalist belief seems also to be quite emotionally satisfying, no matter how outlandish any particular beliefs may be. After all, I find Wagner’s Ring to be very emotionally satisfying and I enjoy it immensely every time I hear it performed, despite the fact that the general story line is preposperous. But there is also enough legitimate human experience intermingled with the preposperous stuff to allow my brain to enjoy it an even identify with it. So it seems to be the case with fundamentalist belief. It is emotionally satisfying and makes one feel good, and all one has to do is simply accept it as being true. What could be easier? And as with any human enterprise, having co-believers simply re-enforces the beliefs and makes them more powerful drivers of group action. And so, the Kentucky Legislature finds it very logical to push the Ark theme park while cutting education funding and probably wonders what all the fuss is about.

    Sadly, such seems to be the prevailing view among a majority of Americans, whether or not they happen to be fundamentalists. It’s a lot easier and emotionally satisfying to believe fundamentalist doctrine, or “new age” mumbo jumbo, or even the latest schemes on how to get rich than it is to actually try to understand what scientists have discovered about physical reality. I just recently had a conversation with a very intelligent, “liberal” women who insisted that the full moon is what controls whether we have a killing frost in Maine in the spring or fall (that’s a common belief among people in these parts). I tried to point out that there is no physical correlation of any significance between the two and that I had actually done studies to debunk such a connection and that people only remember a full moon being present during a frosty night because of the clear, dry, calm conditions that are necessary for frosts to occur. She replied that it was impossible that such a big, beautiful moon wouldn’t have a major effect on the weather situation. When I asked what mechanism could possibly be involved, she replied that there had to be one even if scientists hadn’t found one yet.

    I also had another friend, a computer programmer, that was working on a weather project with me in Saudi Arabia back in the early 1980s. He insisted that the full moon always coincided with a heat wave and it just so happened that the two phenomena actually coincided when we were there. He rested his case and I just shook my head in frustration. This is what scientists are up against and why climate change action, among other things, is going to be a very tough row to hoe.

  33. Joan Savage says:

    Theme parks and professional sports seem to be stepping into the role of circuses in the Roman “bread and circuses” policy; providing new venues that profit a few and distract the many.

    How well do these ventures distract people from encroaching climate change and corrupt favoritism in government? Maybe not that much. They seem to happen in plain sight, with few repercussions.

    Clearly the theme-park developers and their highly-placed supporters are not overly concerned with an expectation of a disruptive Christian rapture at 6 pm local time on May 21, 2011.

    The Auburn Journal, a California paper, hinted at a role of US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but without a direct link to the venture.

  34. David says:

    Wow, as Kentuckian I am astonished and ashamed to find that we are even dumber and more backwards and ignorant than Tennessee. You actually have to live in this part of the country to appreciate exactly how soberingly depressing a concept that is.

  35. Richard Brenne says:

    Ed Hummel (#32) – As always I second your motions and have long felt that fundamentalist Christians and Muslims were having a global contest to see who could misunderstand their religion more.

    Does fundamentalism exist in science? I’ve known a number of biologists who seemed a little dogmatic in their almost literal worship of Darwin (Why not Wallace also, or better yet Newton, who advanced science a lot more dramatically, with no one like Wallace even close to parallel discoveries?) and frothing at the mouth like fundamentalists at the idea that someone else might not subscribe to their particular brand of atheism (I subscribe to another, but my subscription is running out).

    Any excessive certitude without sufficient evidence is problematic. And don’t get me wrong about Darwin, I’m a big fan of both him and evolution – I just don’t worship either.

    Genuine spirituality containing the best of philosophy and any or all spiritual traditions can also be rigorous as can the study of science. I don’t find the two to be mutually exclusive at all, but rather for me they seem complimentary. This genuine spirituality can include atheistic and agnostic thought to me.

    It’s the one-stop-shopping for all of one’s religious, social and political beliefs that is intellectually lazy and dangerous, as you point out so well. Such unthinking people as programmable as robots can be manipulated to bring about the end of the world, though the process might take more like a century than the rest of this afternoon.

    And I agree with you and others that in increasingly complex times such one-stop-shopping simplicity is reassuring to the laziest and dumbest, and that explains the appeal of people like Bush, Palin and Limbaugh to so many.

  36. LarryE says:

    “The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion.” – Gov. Steve Beshear

    Um, in that case, Governor, why are you starting a debate about religion by giving state funding to a project specifically designed to push a particular set of religious beliefs?

  37. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Zetetic #16. As my first comment was cancelled, I am trying again with an abridged version. Velikovsky was actually a psychiatrist. Also, you may wish to tap into ‘The Big Bang Never Happened’, 1991, by Eric J Lerner, a physicist and no follower of Velikovsky. He reviewed the evidence and concluded that a plasma universe is a more satisfactory hypothesis than a universe based on gravity, ME

  38. Zetetic says:

    @ Mulga #24:
    Sorry I didn’t respond sooner. Actually I rather doubt that they care where the idea came from, as long as it “supports” their dogma.


    @ Merrelyn Emery #37:
    Yes, you are correct about the distinction. Sorry about the error, I was going off of memory and it has been a while since I last saw someone bring him up. Either way the point remains the same, that he was commenting on fields that are way outside his field of expertise and therefore his conclusions are no more to be trusted than if he was designing an aircraft without the relevant expertise.

    Velikovsky’s biggest problem though remains that he had no reasonable evidence to support his conclusions of such bizarre astrophysical phenomena occurring withing such a short period of time. His hypotheses were apparently nothing more than the product of his imagination rationalizing ancient myths without any basis in sound science or evidence. For example, do you really think that it’s reasonably plausible that the Earth was a once a moon of Saturn that was ejected from it’s orbit? Or that Noah’s Flood (of which there is zero evidence that a global flood of such magnitude ever happened within human history) was caused by Saturn ejecting large amounts of mass before it finally got to it’s current orbit, all within the last several thousand years? What credible positively supporting evidence is there for these conclusions?

    As for Lerner, his 1991 book and the “plasma universe” are still not highly regarded by the vast majority of the relevant scientific community for it’s lack of evidence.
    Errors in the “The Big Bang Never Happened”
    It’s also important to note that in the intervening time since his book was published that his opinion still hasn’t managed to gain ground in the scientific community, meanwhile the standard cosmological model continues to be refined and supported by ever increasing amounts of evidence. In the last 20 years, since his book, much has been discovered that actively contradicts Lerner’s position (as noted in the above link). That Lerner’s work has become “stagnant” is why it continues to mostly be taken seriously only within various pseudoscientific groups.

    Is there much that we don’t know about how the universe works?
    Sure, but that doesn’t justify jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence.
    In the end the neither Velikovsky nor Lerner (nor Ken Ham for that matter) will ever have their positions supported by the majority of the scientific community without credible positively supporting evidence that differentiates their position from the standard models that are based on decades of evidence. Science is philosophically based on the idea of supporting your position as empirically as possible. When supported by credible positively supporting evidence the scientific consensus will adopt theories that are contrary to previous positions, but not before. That is what differentiates science from pseudoscience.

  39. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Zetetic, thanks for the info re Lerner, ME

  40. Zetetic says:

    @ Merrelyn Emery #30:
    No problem.

    I apologize if I came off as pontificating too much, it wasn’t my intent and tone can be hard to convey properly when posting in a thread. It is just that without being careful to evaluate the evidence and how the scientific consensus changes over time, it becomes difficult to separate science from mere speculation. Therefore, I have a strong conviction that claims about science (and realty in general) need to be properly supported by as much credible evidence as is reasonably possible and periodically reevaluated.

    No offense was intended towards you, so I hope that none was taken.

  41. Jeff Young says:

    You think that’s bad. KY spends about $400k/year on “coal education.” KY taxpayers pumped about $1.5 million into a program called CEDAR that spreads blatant misinformation about climate change (its video offering for kids is the famous “greening of planet earth” crap from the western fuels assoc.) and bribes kids with thousands in cash prizes to get them to parrot pro-coal messages in a “coal fair.” More in this LOE piece: