WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. -- A recent U.S. district court ruling buoys plans for the July 7, 2016 opening of the $91 million Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky, featuring one of the largest replicas of Noah's Ark. The 510-foot-long, four-stories-high wooden boat will be one of the park's top attractions.
The company behind the project, Answers in Genesis (AiG) became embroiled in legal battles over tax rebate incentives after the state rescinded the religious company's participation in the Kentucky Tourism Development Program based on its use of religious criteria in hiring practices. Close to $18 million was at stake, according to the Wall Street Journal. AiG later sued citing the decision as a violation of its First Amendment rights. A U.S. district court judge affirmed their argument in a recent ruling.
The federal court found “that the Commonwealth’s exclusion of AiG from participating in the program for the reasons stated – i.e., on the basis of AiG’s religious beliefs, purpose, mission, message, or conduct, is a violation of AiG’s rights under the First Amendment to the federal Constitution” (p.70). The judge ordered the state to move forward in processing AiG’s application for the available tax rebate incentives that would become effective after the Ark opens and is operating.
Over $90 million has been raised for land purchase, infrastructure, exhibit construction, plus the building of the park’s centerpiece: the massive recreation of Noah’s Ark.
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