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Opponents of AiG’s Ark Encounter—with a full-size Noah’s Ark as its centerpiece—have resorted to two primary tactics in trying to sink the Ark. First, they wrongly claim that AiG’s Creation Museum is failing, and thus its sister project, the Ark Encounter, will meet the same fate. Second, they falsely accuse the Ark Encounter of seeking taxpayer dollars to fund its construction and thus be in violation of the so-called “separation of church and state.”
The Internet is rife with rumors that the museum is seeing a decline in attendance and is in the red. These myths have been made up out of whole cloth in an effort to malign AiG and question its ability to take on another large building project, the Ark Encounter. Although some blogs will cite leftist alternative newspapers (who have a history of inaccurate reporting on AiG) as their sources, they do not have correct attendance figures and do not have full access to our full financial records (or don’t understand the documents they can retrieve).
One way to refute the naysayers’ belief in declining museum attendance is to watch this new video which highlights the characteristic busyness of the museum over the past months:
Each year the Creation Museum has exceeded the attendance projections that were set just before the museum opened seven years ago. This year has been one of our best years ever for attendance and revenue. In the past nine days alone, over 15,500 people have visited the museum.
We have to note that, in the worldview of a secularist who believes that we live in a purposeless and meaningless universe where moral standards can be whatever a person wants it to be, making up lies about the museum and its attendance is not wrong because absolute standards do not exist.
To counter the other major myth being circulated by secularists to undermine the Ark project (i.e., Kentucky taxpayers are helping to build the Ark), we present the following letter to the editor written by AiG that appeared Sunday in one of Kentucky’s leading newspapers, the Herald-Leader of Lexington. Although this paper has had a long history of writing unfavorable editorials and articles about AiG, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter, we were grateful to be able to respond to a Herald-Leader news report that appeared on July 31. In that article, a highly prominent and influential leader in state government, the House Speaker for the Kentucky Legislature, Greg Stumbo, was quoted. He opposes AiG’s Ark Encounter on constitutional grounds as AiG applies for a sales tax refund offered through the state’s Tourism Development Act available for proposed tourist attractions.
Here is our response to the Herald-Leader in Sunday’s paper:
We wish to comment on statements attributed to House Speaker Greg Stumbo (July 30) about the future Ark Encounter. The project has received preliminary approval from the state to receive a refund of sales tax collected at the park if it draws large crowds and thus many tourism dollars. (Contrary to what has been widely reported, no tax money is coming out of the state budget and away from needed services to build the full-size Noah's Ark.)
Speaker Stumbo opposes the possible refund of sales tax as a supposed violation of separation of church/state and suggests that a lawsuit will result. We point out that an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky told USA Today in 2010 that the state should be non-discriminatory towards the Ark Encounter. We would further suggest that it would be illegal for the state to engage in viewpoint discrimination. In addition, the state is not compelling anyone to visit the Ark Encounter and is not endorsing its content. Was Kentucky “endorsing” alcohol consumption when it approved tax refunds for a beer distillery tour project in 2012?
Recent federal cases involving incentives and establishment of religion have been generally permissive to promote economic development. (e.g., a 2009 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes Kentucky). The granting of a sales tax refund is for a legitimate public purpose: economic development.
Meanwhile, massive earthmoving equipment will soon be making its way to Williamstown as excavation and construction starts on the Ark.
To follow up the last line of the guest column above, here is a video that AiG President Ken Ham recorded at the Ark site last Thursday as huge earth-moving machines were beginning to arrive, signaling the start of the excavation and construction of the Ark Encounter:
Also, here is a rather balanced news item from Channel 12 (the CBS TV affiliate in Cincinnati) as it covered the latest about the Ark Encounter on a Friday evening broadcast.
To follow the wonderful progress of the Ark Encounter, go to ArkEncounter.com.