Possibly hearing that I was born in that state, Noah has been inspired to rebuild the ark in Kentucky, but his plan to accept tax incentives is apparently running afoul of some government watchdogs and “constitutional concern” groups.
OK, none of that is exactly true. Rather, folks in some way related to the Creation Museum in Kentucky (which I reviewed here: “Review of our Creation Museum visit”) are planning to build a religious theme park in Grant County Kentucky: An 800-acre “Ark Encounter.” It aims, among other things, to build a life-sized replica of the ark using techniques hypothetically possible at the time of Noah as an educational tool about how realistically possible it was for Noah to do exactly as God asked and to dispel naysayers.
Read all about it in today’s Wall Street Journal piece (not, thankfully, behind a paywall), “Rebuilding Noah’s Ark, Tax-Free.” The author Wilfred M. McClay, professor of history and humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, describes the planned theme park thusly:
“Ark Encounter, a more commercial enterprise, plans to offer an array of animals to serve as ark-dwellers, a 10-story Tower of Babel, a recreation of a first-century Middle Eastern village, high-tech simulations of Old Testament stories, and a petting zoo. Designers say that every detail, down to the construction techniques of the Ark itself, will plausibly reflect the biblical account.”
(Actually, you don’t have to take his word for all of it; the Ark Encounter website, itself, has some details.)
The controversy is that the governor of Kentucky plans to provide tax incentives for the development. Providing tax incentives to private, commercial enterprise has long been held to be constitutional, but the fact that this private, commercial enterprise plans to support a certain bible-related worldview apparently has “separation of church and state” folks up in arms.
I take no side on the politics and constitutionality of tax incentives. Those who believe it is wrong to offer such incentives should also question such deals as what Arlington, Texas made with Jerry Jones for the new Dallas Cowboys stadium–a house of worship if I’ve ever seen one. Why would one supposedly money-producing commercial enterprise be preferred over another? (Not that they never would be, but what are the actual criteria?) And for those who believe that such government encouragement should absolutely be allowed, what if the theme park were, instead, “The Glorious World of the Qur’an” (complete with a “Ride the Buraq” roller coaster?) intended to spread the belief in the accuracy of Islam’s “sacred” text. What, constitutionally, separates the two?
The Wall Street Journal article is a quick read, and touches on more than the possible constitutional crisis Noah faces. For instance, do such commercial enterprises truly help spread or increase religious understanding, or do they demean or cheapen that which they intend to promote? Might be a good conversation this Sabbath.