Monday, November 02, 2015

State Taxpayers May Not Intervene In Religious Theme Park's Suit Against State Officials

In Ark Encounter, LLC v. Stewart, (ED KY, Oct. 30, 2015), a Kentucky federal district court refused to permit four Kentucky taxpayers to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit by promoters of a Noah's Ark theme park who are suing Kentucky officials for refusing to grant the park sales tax rebate incentives designed to promote tourism.  The promoters plan to build a full-size replica of Noah's Ark which they say will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. The state countered that the project has evolved into a project to promote a literal reading of the Biblical book of Genesis. The promoters say their exclusion amounts to viewpoint-based discrimination. (See prior posting.)

The intervenors are taxpayers who strongly oppose use of tax funds to promote a religious ministry and wish to enforce provisions of the Kentucky constitution that bar use of funds for that purpose. However, the district court was unconvinced, saying:
the Court is deeply concerned that too permissive a standard for intervention would allow any Kentucky taxpayer to intervene in nearly any suit involving the administration of the state’s tax laws.
The court went on to find:
The proposed intervenors have not identified how the Commonwealth’s interest in upholding the Kentucky Constitution differs from theirs such that the Commonwealth cannot represent their interests in the constitutional use of Kentucky residents’ tax dollars....
The court however did permit the proposed intervenors instead to file an amicus memorandum setting forth their arguments.