RELIGION

Christian ministry building ark theme park suing Kentucky, alleging free speech violations

The Christian ministry building a Noah's Ark theme park is arguing in a federal lawsuit that Kentucky tourism officials violated the group's First Amendment free speech rights by denying an $18 million tax incentive.

The tourism incentive was meant for the Ark Encounter, a theme park plan that will be built around a 500-foot-long wooden ark modeled after the Bible's story of Noah. State officials said in December that the project's mission had changed from tourist attraction to ministry, and denied the benefit.

The Answers in Genesis ministry says in the lawsuit filed Thursday that religious beliefs should not bar the group from participating in the tax incentive plan.

The suit names the tourism cabinet and Gov. Steve Beshear. A spokeswoman in Beshear's office declined to comment.