Tax incentives for Ark park hurt interfaith efforts

tax money must not promote one faith

December 20, 2010 

At issue | Dec. 2 Herald-Leader article, "Beshear defends use of tax incentives; says jobs, not religion, at issue"

We represent lay and clergy leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Baha'i, Quaker, Buddhist, Hindu and other faith groups practicing in Central Kentucky.

As an organization that has been promoting and practicing interfaith engagement and understanding here in the Bluegrass for over 10 years, we have serious concerns about the recent announcement of the proposed Ark Encounter theme park sponsored by Answers in Genesis.

While we acknowledge its right as a private company to build the Noah's Ark complex, we do not believe our commonwealth should be giving tax incentives to an avowedly sectarian group, at least part of the purpose of which is to promote one particular brand of religion — namely fostering only one way to read, apply and understand scriptural revelation.

We know many people still hold anti-scientific views. However, when Kentucky presents even the appearance of advancing or promoting one particular version of faith over other faiths, or over none, it does enormous damage to the future of interfaith understanding, respect and hope for peace that so many have worked so hard to ensure.

Even while there may not be issues of legality or constitutionality presently at stake, the explicit support shown by Gov. Steve Beshear and his announced proposal for huge tax incentives may cross this threshold.

We know members of our congregations and many others who believe in fairness, justice, equity and the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded will be closely following this saga.

We need to make sure that our commonwealth does not cross this line. And, if it should, we must understand the challenges to preserving the integrity of our commonwealth's commitment to religious pluralism if it should.

At the very least, this action by Beshear demeans the progressive and egalitarian reputation that our commonwealth works so hard to create, foster and maintain.

Do we really want to sell out to add 900 low-paying jobs that will discriminate against people who believe differently than do they?

Do we really think that the increase in seasonal tourism is worth this compromise?

Let them build and operate their business; and let them flourish, and pay taxes, just like every other business in this commonwealth.

Or do we want to be a state that honors the rights and the dignity of each individual, respecting all and discriminating against none?

Please consider this protest to Beshear's actions by the members of the Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass, a statement of support for our commonwealth and a rebuke to all decisions that impose upon the dignity of our citizens on account of their faith traditions.

The Rev. Cynthia Cain of Unitarian Universalist Church, Rabbi Marc Kline of Temple Adath Israel and the Rev. Mark D. Johnson of Central Baptist Church represent the board of directors of the Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass.

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