Noah theme park denied US$18m in tax credits for refusing to hire non believers
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Noah theme park denied US$18m in tax credits for refusing to hire non believers

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A controversial theme park development based around Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, US, has been denied more than US$18m (€14.4m, £11.5m) in state tourism tax credits based on the religious requirements of its hiring process.

Set to open in 2016, Ark Encounter came under fire in October for refusing to hire anyone who doesn’t believe in the biblical flood.

The group behind the attraction – Answers in Genesis (AiG) – asks prospective employees to sign a faith statement, which includes a belief in creationism and the flood. Two days prior to the state’s decision, AiG had threatened to file a federal lawsuit to get the incentives.

"As you know we have strongly supported this project, believing it to be a tourism attraction based on biblical themes that would create significant jobs for the community," said a letter from Kentucky’s tourism, arts and heritage cabinet secretary, Bob Stewart to AiG’s legal team.

"However it is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG's ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives."

AiG officials have since declined to comment on the matter, saying it was considering its legal options.

"We expect any entity that accepts state incentives not to discriminate on any basis in hiring,” said Kentucky governor Steve Beshear in a statement. "While the leaders of Ark Encounter had previously agreed not to discriminate in hiring based on religion, they now refuse to make that commitment, and it has become apparent that they do intend to use religious beliefs as a litmus test for hiring decisions. For that reason, we cannot proceed with the tourism incentive application for the Ark Encounter project.

"Ark Encounter has said publicly that the project will be built regardless of availability of state incentives and I have no doubt that the it will be a successful attraction, drawing visitors and creating jobs, much like the Creation Museum."

In July, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to give preliminary approval of the incentives for the US$73m (€54.4m, £43m) first construction phase of the biblical theme park. The 800-acre attraction is set to feature a recreation of a village prior to the biblical floods, as well as a Tower of Babel housing an audio-visual effects theatre and a full-sized ark.

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A controversial theme park development based around Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, US, has been denied more than US$18m (€14.4m, £11.5m) in state tourism tax credits based on the religious requirements of its hiring process.
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