Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Ark Encounter Opens in Williamstown, KY, Despite Controversy

Presumably, you have heard about the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY. It opened last week to the public. It is the creation of Ken Ham -- an Australian evangelical who is horribly anti-gay --, as well as Mark Looey and Answers in Genesis. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. They also believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that mankind lived alongside dinosaurs (and unicorns).

They spent $100 million to build their replica of Noah's Ark. It stands seven stories high and is the length of 1 1/2 football fields. They don't keep animals in the replica Ark, but there is a small zoo out back. And there are fake replicas of all of the animals and dinosaurs and unicorns that had rested in the Ark during God's 40-day flood.

The Ark Encounter has hired over 400 people. Those people must sign off on a very narrow Statement of Faith. Not only does it prevent non-Christians and LGBT people from obtaining employment in this small community. This faith statement is so narrow that it also prevents many Christians from being employed there.

The Kentucky legislature gave the Ark Encounter up to $18 million in tax breaks and incentives. Additionally, the land that it was built on was given to them for free and the town of Williamstown gave the project $62 million in bonds. Williamstown had to upgrade its electricity and build a new water treatment plant to accommodate the new ministry -- and those upgrades will be paid for by the community's local businesses and citizens, not the Ark Encounter.

A Facebook/GCN friend posted this comment earlier today:
I don't understand why folks are so negative on the ark encounter build. It's an amusement park, just like Disney, Dollywood, 6-flags ECT. Nobody criticized them for spending their money on amusement parks. It's just a religious themes amusement park. You don't have to go and spend your money if you don't want to. And I do believe this business should be taxed like any other business.
People kept saying that this is a nonprofit church group. So I posted this in response:
Let's set aside the fact that they will only hire Christians who affirm a narrow set of beliefs. They received $18 million in tax rebates and incentives. They will NEVER have to pay taxes. That's money that won't go to the state for school, roads, fire departments, etc. The local community had to totally upgrade its water systems to accommodate this park. And the local businesses and people will have to bankroll those upgrades. And please don't try telling me that this park is a nonprofit venture. Should I go on?
I did concede:
Granted, they'll pay payroll taxes. Because their employees won't get the same lifetime pass on paying taxes that their employer will get.
I've had more than a few people ask me why an atheist or someone else who doesn't share their belief system would even want to work for the Ark Encounter in the first place. This is my response today (here and here):
Maybe there's a recovering recession and they have bills to pay and a family to support. Just maybe...
And...
So a Methodist or Lutheran who doesn't believe everything on that list or who might be divorced can't even be a janitor at this place, which is now one of the biggest employers in their small community?
Someone then told me that the Ark Encounter is just a teaching tool exhibit, implying that it makes sense that those teaching would need to believe what they are teaching. I then replied:
They have over 400 jobs, including food service workers and janitors and animal handlers, etc. they all have to fit the narrow faith statement.
Anyway, I have no doubt that people will go to the Ark Encounter. I have seen many of my FB friends express excitement about going to see the unicorns. Never mind that their own lifestyles and beliefs would prevent them from earning money from the project -- but not from spending money at the project.

Personally, I'm as likely to check out the Ark Encounter as I was to go see the Creation Museum. In other words, you'll need to leave a comment and let me know what I'm missing! Have fun!

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