With Texas Governor Rick Perry's recent prayer rally and a new deal guaranteeing Kentucky's Ark Encounters project property tax breaks, the sometimes tricky relationship between politics and religion is on display again. In the case of the bible-based theme park, some worry all the business incentives are signs that church and state getting too cozy.
Mike Zovath, Senior Vice President of Answers in Genesis, the group behind Ark Encounters and the state's Creation Museum, has a simple reply for the critics.
"This is a privately funded, for profit, tourist attraction - plain and simple. It has an outwardly Christian message, but it's not different than the Harry Potter theme park in Florida," he said.
Plus there are the new jobs - 900 in the park, Zovath says, possibly 14,000 in tourism and travel-related industries. But not everyone is impressed.
"In this tough economy, some jurisdictions, states, and communities are so desperate for jobs, they'll throw public money at just about anything," Robert Boston with Americans United for Separation of Church and State said.
Boston admits finding clear evidence of church/state violations would likely prove difficult in the Ark Encounters case. But, he says, Kentucky should worry about its brand.
"If the state gets this reputation for embracing this very fundamentalist view of the Bible, it could set them back when they're attempting to get involved in some of the pro-science and high-tech jobs and careers that are really going to be important to young people in this future," he said.
Boston says his organization has filed requests for documents pertaining to Ark Encounters' tax breaks and is in the process of analyzing them.