Ark Encounter clears final hurdle

Ark Encounter by AiG, overview
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The Ark Encounter project received final approval last week for the tax incentives it had sought. Project opponents threatened to sue to block it.

Ark Encounter tax incentives

On the afternoon of May 19, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously to grant as much as $43 million in rebates of sales taxes on ticket and concession sales at the proposed Ark Encounter project during the first ten years of its operation. The KTDFA offers such rebates to any major tourist attraction that anyone plans to build in Kentucky. The builders must show that their project will create enough jobs and attract enough money-spending visitors from out-of-State.

The KDTFA wanted to know whether Ark Encounter would boost the State’s economy, as its developers say it will. But several groups and institutions say that the KDTFA has no business granting such rebates to any project with a religious theme. They say that these rebates are no different from a subsidy—a direct cash grant. And if the State helps a religious-themed project in any way, shape or form, it is “establishing religion.” That, they say, would go against the State and United States Constitutions.

Ark Encounter description

Ark Encounter full overview

Full overview of Ark Encounter, including all proposed exhibits. Copyright 2010 by Ark Encounter LLC; used by permission

Ark Encounter will be a 160-acre theme park built around a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark. Most Ark replicas are very large boxes with three levels. Ark Encounter’s replica will actually look like a ship’s hull. It will also have a protruding bow skeg and stern sail. The wooden war galleys that might have participated in the Trojan War had these features. Tim Lovett (Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box) designed the replica. He has always thought that the first wooden ships that men built after the Great Flood copied these features from Noah’s Ark. To Lovett, Noah’s Ark was the greatest feat of naval architecture of its time and certainly the most important ship ever built. (Without it, neither you nor your editor would be alive today.)

In addition, Ark Encounter will have two petting zoos, an aviary, and life-sized architect’s concepts of:

  • A pre-Flood city,
  • Noah’s house, and
  • The Tower of Babel.

Ark Encounter LLC, the private group behind the project, announced the project in December of last year. They filed a feasibility study with the KDTFA. That body commissioned its own feasibility study from Hunden Strategic Partners. Their study said that if Ark Encounter does what it says it will, then it might attract 1.2 million out-of-State visitors in its first year, bring in $119 million in business, and produce $64.6 million in taxes over ten years, taxes that the State would not otherwise collect. To do this, Ark Encounter must include original material and not merely rehash the exhibits of the Creation Museum to the south.

Groundbreaking will occur in August of 2011 in Williamstown, Grant County, Kentucky. It will open in 2014.

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Ark Encounter opposition

The Rev. Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, was very upset with Kentucky authorities for their decision.

The state of Kentucky should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint. Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help.

Lynn threatened to sue over the tax-incentive decision.

The US Constitution’s First Amendment says in part,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The Fourteenth Amendment says in part,

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

Whether Lynn’s group can show in court that granting a tax rebate to a new tourist attraction that happens to have a religious theme somehow “abridges the privileges and immunities” of citizens and lawful residents of Kentucky is unclear. Lynn’s argument is this:

[Kentucky Governor Steve] Beshear wants to launch this ark on a sea of tax breaks – money that will ultimately have to be made up by Kentucky taxpayers. This misguided project deserves to sink.

Lynn is wrong. Without Ark Encounter, the real estate where it will rest would generate no tax income. Nor has Lynn suggested what other kind of project could bring in $119 million in new business. This is key, because to win any lawsuit, Lynn has to show that the tax rebates will cost the State money that it could otherwise spend. Without such an “injury in fact,” Lynn would have no standing in court.

Ark Encounter LLC has sought no federal grant, so Congress has not passed any law that would apply here.

The University of Kentucky biology department has also criticized the project, as have many other anti-creation groups. They all say that the Flood did not occur, and that any suggestion that it did occur is willfully deceptive. They complain that Ark Encounter will stunt the growth of children’s ability to reason, and will make people laugh at Kentucky and think that the State’s people are anti-scientific rubes.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

13 Responses to Ark Encounter clears final hurdle

  1. Garth says:

    The religious establishments referred to in the First Ammendment are for example the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, etc.. The First Ammendment says nothing about religious _belief_. Christianity is a religious belief, not a religious establishment, and the founding fathers wrote plenty to show that that the nation was to be founded on Christianity.

    James Madison (father of the Constitution) for example wrote, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

    George Wasington said on 10/3/1789 as he proclaimed a national day of prayer and thanksgiving, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.”

    I could give you tons more of these. Fisher Ames who wrote the First Ammendment also wrote that the Bible should always remain the principal textbook in America’s classrooms. God is referred to several times in the Declaration of Independence too.

    As for the ark, I’m anxious to see if they really do their research, or fall for the loads of inaccuracies that have been floating around.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      You might have a look at the Ark Encounter site, or check out Tim Lovett’s excellent Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box. (See the “carousel” above.)

      They will build their ark replica entirely out of wood. In fact, they’ve hired an Amish contractor to do the job. Those men know their wood. Of course, no one knows what ets-gofer really was; that word appears just once in the Bible and nowhere in any extrabiblical source, ancient or modern.

    • Liza says:

      Great tihkning! That really breaks the mold!

  2. John says:

    Well Garth, there’s legal evidence that blasts your “based on Christianity” argument to pieces, namely article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli.

    I do not think that they should be receiving tax dollars to build this amusement park, any more than I would want tax dollars to go to a Muslim, Hindu or atheist amusement park. This does seem to violate the establishment clause, but I’m not a judge and won’t have any part in this decision, so I guess my own opinions in this matter don’t.

    As for this belief in the Ark making the people of Kentucky look like a bunch of anti-science morons, yeah, it does that.

    The story of the Ark is probably one of the easiest parts of the Bible to cry [censored] on, and no sane person can believe that to be a literal account, for a half a hundred reasons.

    Does this book, Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box, make any mention of the fact that the average zoo has far fewer animals than two of every species in the world, and far more employees than just eight people? How did koalas, a species that only eats eucalyptus leaves, and spends 16-18 hours a day asleep, get from Australia to Noah? Likewise, how did sloths get from South America to Noah? Since the change in salinity would have killed all of the fresh water fish in the world, and most of the salt water fish too, Noah would have had to have collected these fish and put them in tanks on the ark. Also whales, squid, dolphins, and probably a bunch of other sea-creatures we haven’t even discovered yet. What about parasites and diseases? Noah and his family would have had to carry two of every human parasite between them. What are all these animals going to eat when the ark lands and everything is covered in mud? What are they going to eat on the ark? What are they going to drink on the ark? This is not an exhaustive list of questions either.

    Anybody who can take this story seriously probably deserves to be called an anti-scientific moron. When I was six I got kicked out of Sunday school for asking too many questions about the story of the flood, namely, where did all that water come from? Then I went to my aunt and uncle’s church, and when I asked the Sunday school teacher there the same questions, she gave the much more satisfying answer, “it’s just a story.”

    • Mary says:

      John, Koala did not get to the ark from Australia. Sloths did not get to the ark from South America. The continents broke up AFTER the flood. There was only one continent prior to the flood. So, there was no problem getting the animals aboard. Moreover, sea creatures were never brought on board. BTW, Noah didn’t put the creatures on board the ark, nor did he round them up. God brought them to the ark. Read the Bible. A lot of the water for the flood came from the “fountains of the great deep” (volcanoes). Creation scientists can answer a lot of the questions you asked your Sunday School teacher.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Editor’s note: CNAV does not allow obscene language in these comment spaces.

      • John says:

        Sorry Terry, I shall avoid such language in the future.

        Mary, you do realize the extreme tectonic forces that would have to be at work for the continents to break up after the flood? That would be like thousands of gigantic earthquakes a day. Strangely, there are no records of these events, either written by people or observed in geology.

        If no sea creatures were brought aboard, nearly all of them would be killed by the change in salinity. The oceans are teeming with life, so clearly with no such flood occurred, or Noah built some absolutely amazing (presumably wooden) aquariums that the Bible doesn’t talk about.

        There’s this law of the universe called the conservation of mass, and it states that matter cannot be created or destroyed. So if all of this water came up out of the Earth, where is it now and where are the gigantic cavities from where it came out of the Earth? Also, last I checked volcanoes spilled out lava, not water.

        Creation “scientists” can give lots of answers, but these answers always turn out to be gibberish upon further review.

  3. […] State tourism development board has approved start-up tax incentives for a new theme park in Kentucky. The centerpiece of the park will be a full-sized shipwright’s […]

  4. Dave says:

    Interesting comments on this. What is fitting about the ark project mainly is seen as an answer to the many questions that get posed to creation ists each day “how did Noah fit all the animals on the Ark?”, I’ve heard that. So my response generally has been “how big do you think that ark was?”. This ark project is important in many ways. It first gives people a real life view of just how big the ark was and it blows away the image of a cute little ark on Sunday school poster board that so many people have grown up with. Second, it then gives people a conceptual framework with which to discuss the logistics of the animals, which then boils down to discussion of animal kinds vs. species. Many of the questions posed on this site would merit well for scientific study.

  5. Takeo says:

    That’s more than senisble! That’s a great post!

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  7. […] Cabinet abruptly canceled the planned tax incentives. Ark Encounter, LLC had applied for and received abatements on sales-tax collection at its proposed Ark Encounter park for the first ten years of […]

  8. […] Cabinet abruptly canceled the planned tax incentives. Ark Encounter, LLC had applied for and received abatements on sales-tax collection at its proposed Ark Encounter park for the first ten years of […]

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