A creationist group will ask state officials again for tax incentives to help build their long-planned Noah’s ark theme park in northern Kentucky.
Ark Encounter had previously been approved for incentives for the entire $172.5 million project, but it had to withdraw that application due to funding problems.
The religious group will ask the state Tuesday for incentives to help build the $72 million first phase of the theme park in Williamstown, reported The Louisville Courier-Journal.
The project coordinator told the newspaper that Ark Encounter meets all criteria for the tourism act, which allows eligible tourism attractions a 25 percent rebate of sales tax collected on ticket sales, souvenirs, and other sales over a 10-year period.
The rebate could be worth as much as $18.25 million for Ark Encounter, which is affiliated with the Answers in Genesis ministry that operates the Creation Museum about 20 miles away, in Petersburg, Kentucky.
When completed, Ark Encounter will feature a 510-foot wooden replica of the biblical Noah’s ark as its main attraction.
Creationists point to the biblical account of the catastrophic flood as proof that the Earth was created in just six days, 6,000 years ago.
Critics say state incentives for the attraction, including a $10.25 million improvement of access to the site from Interstate 75, violate the constitutional separation of church and state.
“It’s a religiously themed project with potentially evangelical overtones, and therefore it would erode the separation of church and state for it to receive any money from the taxpayers,” Sarah Jones, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the Courier-Journal.
She declined to say whether the group would file a lawsuit over the incentives.
Local and state officials, including Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, have backed the project because they say it would spur tourism and economic development in the area.