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Cooper: Bible park OK to receive taxpayer money

By Chris Rizo | May 6, 2008

Robert Cooper Jr.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline)-Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. said Tuesday that operators of a planned Bible park could use taxpayer money to help bankroll what some call a religious venture.

Cooper said using public funds for the proposed 282-acre Bible Park USA would be allowed under Tennessee law, but could violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from establishing or promoting religion.

Cooper was asked for the legal opinion by state Rep. Donna Rowland, R-Murfreesboro, amid questions whether the park's developers could receive the millions in tax-increment financing they want to help build the theme park centered on Bible history.

The developers specifically want the county to forgo about $27.9 million in property taxes to pay for bonds to build the Bible Park.

Over a 22-year agreement, the county would receive $122 million in sales and property tax revenues, the developers say.

The Rutherford County Budget Committee is scheduled to consider the question of the property tax TIF at its meeting on Thursday.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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