Is the Ark Encounter—the forthcoming Noah’s Ark-centered “edutainment” theme park—a “boondoggle” and an “embarrassment”? Apparently so, if one is asking the editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and several other newspapers that have recently printed anti-Ark editorials.
The Post-Gazette editorial slams the Ark Encounter, a project of Answers in Genesis that will complement our Creation Museum. At the center of the newspaper’s broadside is the question of tax incentives—which may total up to $43 million—the project may receive from the state of Kentucky.
“Science education in Kentucky’s high schools could have used an infusion of $43 million,” the editors opine, continuing:
Instead, the state’s people will get an amusement park that shows humans, dinosaurs and other animals living together on a wooden ship. It’s an embarrassment for the whole nation, not just Kentucky.
The state will never give the Ark Encounter funds from its own budget; the Ark project will merely collect a part of the sales tax it had already collected at the attraction.
The central problem of the editorial is that it is completely wrong. It reveals a lack of understanding of the nature of the tax incentives the Ark Encounter may receive. No tax money will “help fund” (their words) the Ark Encounter, nor will taxpayers “be on the hook” (again, their words) for any portion of the cost of the project. Rather, once the Ark Encounter is up and running (having been paid for entirely by private funding), the state will essentially rebate back to us a portion of the sales tax collected through the Ark Encounter project. The state will never give the Ark Encounter funds from its own budget; the Ark project will merely collect a part of the sales tax it had already collected at the attraction.
But wait—doesn’t that still represent a loss of tax dollars to the state? Not at all, because the state wouldn’t collect any sales tax from the Ark Encounter if it were never built! So even if a limited portion of the sales tax from the park is not added to state coffers, the project will remain a new source of income for the state. Also, the project will attract tourist and construction dollars that will support local businesses and jobs in both the short and long run. Furthermore, these incentives are available to other private tourist attractions; to specifically deny them to the Ark Encounter because of its Old Testament content would (as far as we can tell) violate the First Amendment.
We will give the Post-Gazette the benefit of the doubt and assume the editors did not intend to distort the truth. More likely they simply did sloppy research, presumably basing their critique on other misrepresentative media reports instead of reviewing the press materials we have provided. (For instance, weeks before the Post-Gazette editorial we had already published a response to an initial rash of misrepresentation.)
Of course, the worldview underlying the editorial comes through loud and clear. They refer to the “interpretation” that “men and dinosaurs co-existed less than 10,000 years ago” (along with a literal reading of the Ark account) as an “embarrassment.” Of course, they’re thereby calling about half of their countrymen an embarrassment.
Later, the editorial states, “Even with this guarantee, expecting the taxpayers of Kentucky to subsidize religious propaganda is outrageous. Imagine the hoots of derision if tax subsidies were OK’d for a Muslim or Hindu theme park.” Of course, that may well be true; then again, that doesn’t justify their misrepresentation—especially since we guess that in their hypothetical scenario, the Post-Gazette would rush to the defense of the Muslim or Hindu theme park, to say nothing of their and most other papers’ defense of all the zoos, national and state parks, and natural history museums in the country that subtly or not-so-subtly promote the religion of humanism.
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