new mythology-based fantasy themepark coming to kentucky

Ark Encounter

Ark Encounter

A new myth-based fantasy theme park is coming to Kentucky. The park, which will be called Ark Encounter, promises to expose visitors to myths and fantasies that will rival those of Disneyland. The park’s main attraction will be a 500-foot long reproduction of the Bible’s Noah’s Ark. The park will also feature an ancient walled city (perhaps bringing to mind Jericho), a petting zoo, live animal shows featuring giraffes and elephants, and a full scale reproduction of the biblical Tower of Babel (as the park developers envision it).

The park has attracted some controversy, however, as some have argued that because it is a religiously-themed park, it should not qualify for state tax breaks and incentives, such as the Enterprise Initiative Act Tax Refund Program for which Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has stated the park has applied. Governor Beshear argues there is nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about the proposal. He said the law does not allow the state to discriminate against a for-profit business based upon the product or subject matter of its products. The Governor compared the Ark park to NASCAR, arguing that not everyone loves NASCAR, but that did not stop him from authorizing tax incentives to help the Kentucky Speedway hold a Sprint Cup race next year.

The developers are cleverly attempting to avoid the church-state argument by establishing the Ark park as a for-profit business. Unlike many other faith-based organizations, establishing a for-profit business means the group will forfeit tax exempt status in the long term in exchange for job-creating tax breaks up front. Essentially, the Ark park is gaming the system to get its tax breaks at the beginning. The Ark Encounter website specifically notes that “the tax incentives do not go to non-profit AiG, but to the for-profit Ark Encounter LLC.”

But there should be no doubt that the Ark Encounter is a faith-based enterprise. Not only is the park centered on Biblical stories, but the park will be managed by fundamentalist Christian Creationist group Answers in Genesis, which also runs a Creation Museum park in Petersburg, Kentucky. The Answers in Genesis jobs website specifically states that in order to be eligible for employment at AiG or the Creation Museum:

“All job applicants need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG statement of faith.”

As a taxpayer incentivized, for-profit business in Kentucky, the Ark Encounter will not be allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of testimonies and declarations of faith as Answers in Genesis openly does at the Creation Museum. Only time will tell if the park will “unfortunately” be “forced” to convert to a not-for-profit, faith-based organization after it deals with the inevitable first volleys of discrimination lawsuits. (If it does, will it refund the tax incentives to the state?)

However, if the park’s developers and management are able to avoid employee religion-based discrimination pitfalls, it will most likely be successful in building the park. It will be interesting to observe whether the park declares its purpose as one of attempting to convince visitors of particular faith claims, or if they stick to the mission statements of other theme parks which center around simple entertainment and filing children’s heads with fantastic tales like those Disney productions that would never be physically possible in a world governed by science and physics.

And while Governor Beshear repeatedly touts the benefits of the park – investing $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky, bringing tourism to Kentucky, creating 900 full- and part-time jobs, an estimated annual impact of over $200 million on the state’s economy, and attracting 1.6 million visitors in its first year – I wonder if he’ll go the distance and compare this for-profit theme park to other mythological fantasy parks like Disneyland, Disney World, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As long as the Governor and the park’s developers are on record as stating that this park makes no faith claims about religious truth, and is instead only another fantasy-based theme park like Disneyland, there should be no quarrel.

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16 Responses

  1. Robert,

    Actually tax incentives are allow for religious theme parks are allowed. Its nothing to do with whether they are faith based. Religious attractions are allowed then there is no established religion. The economist ran a piece on it:

    http://www.economist.com/node/17800331?story_id=17800331&fsrc=rss

  2. As a business that needs tour guides, they do need to hire people that have enough Biblical knowledge to perform their jobs. Ark Encounters, however, do not seem to see the difference between an employee having the knowledge then ‘believing’ that knowledge as True. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s hard for me to see the work environment being favorable to non-evangelical Christians.

  3. I read the other day that this park will feature Unicorns, as these were – and I quote from AIG – a real animal, not an imaginary creature.

    They will also feature fire-breathing Dragons.

    And you not what the really shameful things is? If I were ever in Kentucky and I have to go just to marvel at the madness.

    I bet you guys know this St Augustine quote like the back of your hand, but I only came across it today and boy its relevance to today is startling:

    Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

  4. If they discriminate, that goes against the “laws of the land” and that is in direct conflict with the Bible.

    I think they should hire atheists as tour guides. ;-)

  5. Stuart – Augustine seems to be saying the opposite
    of what you think he was saying. Eg if God cannot create instantly then how can Christians believe in the instant resurrection and judgement of billions of
    people.
    By the way the book of Job describes fire breathing
    dragons. Also I can’t see any reason why a fossilised unicorn might not be found someday.

    Marco Polo wrote that when in China he saw dragons ( the old name for dinos) pulling carts.
    About 400 years ago a small dragon was killed by an Italian farmer – this also happened in Ireland.

    Not all dragons (dinos) were fire breathing and they are mentioned in the Bible many times.

    There is too much culture on dragons in every country for them to be mythical,

    Anyway hope this themepark does better than Disney and Harry Potter.

  6. lol.
    and i found the remains of a unicorn skeleton. it was all there except for the head, but trust me, it was a unicorn, not just a horse.
    i don’t cite any evidence of course, but i heard that it was true and so i believe it is true. and besides, no false legends have ever come forth from italy and ireland. (there’s no wine or whiskey in either of those countries.)

    (waiting for headless unicorn guy to comment……. ;-)

  7. Bob – you should be able to google the farmers
    evidence e dragons about 400 years ago.
    Did Marco Polo tell fibs or was he a reliable historian.

    What’s this thing about a unicorn – can’t see why they MUST be mythical – they could have existed – why should an animal with one horn be unusual ???

  8. how come every time i point out you don’t cite evidence, you say ‘google it,’ as if everything on the internet is true? lol.

  9. Because there are so many websites on the
    “historical evidence of dragons” – rather than name
    them all its quicker to google and select serious sites.
    As for the unicorn why not – I mean look at the Narwhale.

  10. Long fairy tales have a tendency to dragon……

  11. i’ll let other responders respond to that. it’s like playing mad libs.

  12. “Did Marco Polo tell fibs or was he a reliable historian.”

    Yes, there’s no way to find out other than to read Marco Polo.

    Tragic how the entire population of China was wiped out shortly after Marco Polo left, leaving a vast, barren, lifeless area. If it wasn’t for that, we could ask a Chinese person today.

  13. Dragons and unicorns and ….dinos? Oh my. Pulling carts? So the Flintstones was a documentary, right? LOL

  14. and i found the remains of a unicorn skeleton. it was all there except for the head, but trust me, it was a unicorn, not just a horse.

    Outside Paris, dating to 1789?

    Let’s see…
    Dragons, Dinos, Unicorns…
    Know what that suggests to me?
    GUERILLA FURSUITING!

  15. So the Flintstones was a documentary, right? LOL — Bobby

    “YABBA DABBA DOO!!!!”

  16. [...] park, to be called Ark Encounter, is also aiming to gather $25m donations from the public. Yet, before I spend $1000 to donate a [...]

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