Kentucky pays Answers in Genesis $190,000 for attorney fees from - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky pays Answers in Genesis $190,000 for attorney fees from lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky has paid Answers in Genesis $190,000 in attorney fees to settle a lawsuit in which a federal court ruled the new Ark Encounter park should qualify for tourism-related tax breaks.

In January, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled Kentucky tourism officials violated the company's First Amendment rights by rejecting the group's application for up to $18 million in state tax incentives.

As part of the ruling, the state had to pay attorney fees for the group.

On May 10, Kentucky agreed to the $190,000 figure, to be paid within 20 days, according to court records.

"We have complied with the final order in the case and the payment was made," said Leigh Powers, general counsel for the tourism cabinet. 

Attorneys for Answers in Genesis were not immediately available for comment.

In December 2014, Kentucky withdrew its offer of tax breaks for the park, which would build a large replica of the Noah's Ark as described in the Old Testament. At the time, Gov. Steve Beshear said the leaders of Ark Encounter "had previously agreed not to discriminate in hiring based on religion (but) they now refuse to make that commitment and it has become apparent that they do intend to use religious beliefs as a litmus test for hiring decisions."

Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, said the lawsuit involved "freedom of religion, free exercise of religion, freedom of speech in this great nation of America."

Tatenhove ruled the state's Tourism Cabinet cannot exclude the ark attraction from the incentive based on its "religious purpose and message."

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has said that he supports tax incentives for the project.

"There's no reason to discriminate against the Ark park, and that's essentially what (the Beshear) administration has done," he told WDRB News last year.

Bevin changed the makeup of the tourism authority's board and they approved the tax incentives in April.

The $92 million Ark Encounter will open in July, on 7/7/16 to go along with Genesis 7:7, which is the passage where Noah and his family entered the Ark.

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