Dec 28th, 2010
F. Grey Parker
Although it's meaning is clear to almost anyone who has read the very first line of The Bill of Rights that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," it seems The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority holds themselves to be well above such petty limitations on governmental overreach as proscribed.
They are preparing to potentially underwrite up to a quarter of the costs for building the creationism theme park proposed for construction there.
"The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has granted preliminary approval for a creationist theme park to get up to $37 million in tax incentives, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.
The theme park -- dubbed Ark Encounter -- is backed by both Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Answers in Genesis, a Christian organization that also built a similar attraction, the Creation Museum.
In the news release announcing the plans, Beshear touted that the park would create around 900 jobs and bring 1.6 million tourists to the state in its first year. Those numbers were based on a feasability study, commissioned by Ark Encounters LLC -- a study that state officials, including Beshear, reportedly never actually saw."
Let's be clear, the early reports of Gov. Beshear's public support of the park were controversial enough. The Governor's office being used to promote so specific an interpretation of a major religion runs contrary not just to Jeffersonian tradition but to a simple understanding of being the servant to all of the state's people. The fact that the project is now poised to be financially supported by the taxpayers of Kentucky during the national debate over the financial crisis and calls for fiscal restraint is abominable.
Kentucky is facing a 500 million shortfall and Gov. Beshear has told all state agencies to plan for a 4% budget cut. In the last year, the Republican dominated state legislature has made sweeping restrictions on state Medicaid recipients' services which could lead to potentially dangerous early hospital discharges and has imposed furloughs and wage cuts on state workers. Over the past two years, Kentucky has cut aid to it's local school districts as well as it's public colleges and universities directly causing an average in-state tuition increase of 5.2%.
Even if the backer's own projections on job creation prove to be any more accurate than their view of the miracle of creation itself, this is a bad investment. Think the numbers through. For all of the cherry picking by the right wing over the cost of the jobs created by the still divisive stimulus package, it would seem that a state with such obvious budget difficulties allocating roughly $45,000 in revenue offsets per hire for an army of "carnys" is rather extravagant.
It's not only Constitutionalists and the budget conscious who should be alarmed at the KTDFA's postion. Christians themselves should be appalled. The vast majority of self identified Christians in America, of whom I am one, don't believe in Biblical literalism. For one thing, it has been conclusively proven that the skies above us are not actually a solid, preventive flood gate. Which brings us to the proposed Noah's Ark exhibit. In the interests of teaching children the tale of the Great Flood, their Ark is going to include dinosaurs (they are calling them "dragons") and unicorns.
Joe Sonka, of the dynamite blog Barefoot and Progressive, notes with dismay:
"Thanks to Steve Beshear, Kentucky is no longer just known as the state whose governor endorsed and gave $40 million in tax breaks to people who want to tell children that science and history explain that a 600 year old man herded dinosaurs onto a big boat 4,000 years ago.
No, Kentucky will now be known as the state whose governor endorsed and gave $40 million in tax breaks to people who want to tell children that science and history explain that a 600 year old man herded dinosaurs, fire-breathing dragons and unicorns onto a big boat 4,000 years ago."
One must wonder if the Governor and the park's backers are as unfamiliar with the Book of Matthew as they are with the 1st Amendment.
"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." -- Matthew 6:24