Ark Park billboards pop up as state pulls plug on tax incentives
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Concerns of religious discrimination in hiring led Kentucky tourism officials to pull the plug on tax incentives for the Ark Park.
Despite that, billboards started popping up around the state last week. Sixteen have appeared, including some in Louisville along Interstate 65, and Tuesday a video board debuted in New York's Time Square stating: "To all of our intolerant liberal friends, thank God, you can't sink this ship."
The idea? That the billboards will push supporters to Answers in Genesis, the group behind Ark Encounter.
Once on the website they will encounter Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham announcing his disappointment that a once approved Kentucky tax incentive program worth some $18 million is now off the table.
"The state of Kentucky had just denied our latest application for a possible refund of sales tax," said Ham.
In a Dec. 10 letter from the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet, Secretary Bob Stewart let the religious group know tax incentives no longer existed for the park it once supported. The letter states, "The Commonwealth will not grant incentives to a company that intends to discriminate in hiring its employees based on religion."
Ham maintains state officials knew of the group's plan for hiring in July and the new conditions are illegal.
On the online video Ham says, "One, we can't show religious preference in our hiring, and two, we can't share our faith at the Ark."
While cost for the Times Square video board has to be pricey, it's debuting at the right time. Hollywood is putting out big budget biblical theme movies, like those on Noah and Moses.
"Despite the opposition to the Ark Encounter, it will move forward," said Melany Ethridge, the spokesperson for Answers in Genesis.
Ethridge said of why they put the video board in Times Square, "Because we know it gets a lot of foot traffic from a lot of tourists and we'd get some buzz going with the media in New York.”
Ethridge said she couldn't comment on the company's hiring practices, but again stated the group has every intention to build without help from the state.
Planning a massive wooden Noah's Ark will cost millions and the total for the park itself is expected to cost $150 million. Because of this the website is seeking donations.
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