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Published: Sunday, 1/2/2011

Biblical outrage

IF EVER a boondoggle was worthy of Tea Partiers' pitchforks and torches, millions of dollars in possible taxpayer subsidies for a creationist theme park in Kentucky should be at the top of the list.

The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval to as much as $43 million in tax incentives to help fund an attraction in Grant County based on the story of Noah's ark in the Book of Genesis. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is an enthusiastic supporter of Ark Encounter, the 800-acre park that will tell the story of how men and dinosaurs coexisted less than 10,000 years ago, according to one interpretation of biblical texts.

Ark Encounter is the brainchild of Answers in Genesis, a Christian group behind the Creation Museum, a popular creationist-oriented destination in Petersburg, Ky., near Cincinnati. Ark Encounter commissioned and underwrote its own feasibility study of the project, but the state hasn't reviewed it. This makes the preliminary approval of tax subsidies even more incredible.

Ark Encounter estimates that the park will generate 900 jobs and attract 1.9 million tourists a year. Taxpayers will be on the hook for 25 percent of the total cost, but only after the park has been built and has begun reaching its performance goals.

Even with this guarantee, expecting taxpayers to subsidize religious propaganda is absurd. Imagine the outrage that would have been generated if tax subsidies were approved for a Muslim or Hindu theme park.

Kentucky is the home of two self-described fiscal watchdogs, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen.-elect Rand Paul, a favorite of the Tea Party. These advocates of small government and tight spending have been uncharacteristically silent on this use of tax dollars.

Science education in Kentucky's high schools could have used an infusion of $43 million. Instead, the people of that state will get an amusement park that shows humans, dinosaurs, and other animals living together on a wooden ship.

It's an embarrassment for the nation, not just Kentucky.

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