If you have been following the adventures of the Ark Encounter, you know that it is a profit-making venture of Answers in Genesis (AIG), organized to build and operate a construction (I can’t bring myself to say “reconstruction”) of what Noah’s ark is supposed to have been like, according to the account in the Old Testament. I would guess this is intended as a kind of educational tourist attraction. “See, this is how the LORD fit those dinosaurs into the Ark.”
I think it’s a great idea. In fact, since they are building a “life size” Noah’s Ark, I think it’s a shame they aren’t planning to build a working replica. I say build it according to biblical specifications, float it on the ocean and fill it with animals. What a great way that would be to answer the critics who say that the Ark is an unworkable concept! Build it, and silence the naysayers. I have an ulterior motive, of course; I would like to see it fail, and I think it would. My bet is that it would leak badly, and probably break up in the waves. I suspect that the young Earth creationists think that too, and that’s why they will never try it. I hope I’m wrong and they do it. That would be a great show!
What I objected to was not the plan to build an Ark, or make money off it from tourism. I may go see it myself. It looks like it will be hilarious, even better than their Creation Museum. (Now with dragons! Prepare to believe!) What bothered me was that AIG was offered a tax break from the state of Kentucky. Technically the tax break would go to Ark Encounter, LLC, “solely owned and controlled by Crosswater Canyon, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization that is in turn controlled by Answers in Genesis,” in the form of a rebate on the sales tax they will collect from visitors. There is nothing wrong with that, nothing illegal or inappropriate; it is a method states use to attract businesses. The legal problem was with the fact that Ark Encounter insisted on the right to discriminate in employment, each applicant for work required to sign a statement of faith.
Technically, there would be nothing wrong with that, if they were employed by AIG, a religious nonprofit. AIG is allowed to discriminate in that way, and that makes sense, since it wouldn’t want employees who completely disagree with the statement of faith. But that wouldn’t allow them their money-making operation. AIG wanted to have it both ways, discriminate as a religious nonprofit, and get tax breaks on its profit-making Ark setup.
It now appears that it won’t be able to do that, as the state of Kentucky has withdrawn the tax break offer. AIG’s Ken Ham said they are fully prepared to sue for the right to receive the breaks while discriminating in hiring. He didn’t use those words, of course. He called it “defending our fundamental rights.”
I am glad Ark Encounter isn’t getting their $18 million in breaks from Kentucky, but I hope they can raise the money privately to finish the project. I think the timing is perfect, now that Americans are beginning to show a little more skepticism about traditional interpretations of the Bible. The Ark park will be a good lesson in how ridiculous the story of Noah is, and the more money good Christians pour into this thing, the less they will have for other less obvious, more deceptive projects.