A group of atheists based in Northern Kentucky raised $10,000 for a billboard protesting the soon-to-open Ark Encounter amusement park, a place where Christian scripture is taken so literally that a Noah’s Ark replica is being built using ancient measurements called “cubits.”
But two billboard companies have rejected the Tri-State Freethinkers’ interpretation of the story of Noah’s Ark as one of “genocide and incest.”
The proposed billboard design shows a Noah’s Ark with people drowning around it and the words “Genocide and Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 years of myths.”
The advertisement has been turned down by Lamar, a national billboard company, and Event Advertising and Promotions LLC, a mobile billboard company.
“We default to accepting most all copy, but if there’s something we deem not appropriate then we don’t run it,” said Tom Fahey, manager of the Cincinnati office of Lamar. “It seemed more inflammatory in nature than anything else.”
Event Advertising and Promotions told the Tri-State Freethinkers that the company was worried about its drivers’ personal safety, said Jim Helton, president of Tri-State Freethinkers. Company officials did not return calls seeking comment.
In 2014, Lamar displayed several billboards around the state from Ark Encounter with the statement: “To all of our intolerant liberal friends: Thank God you can’t sink this ship.”
Conceived by the same folks who started the Creation Museum in Petersburg, the Ark Encounter in Williamstown presents a creationist viewpoint in which the Earth is only 6,000 years old, a place where men lived peacefully alongside dinosaurs.
Helton said the 1,500 members of his group from Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana oppose the amusement park for several reasons, including its policy of hiring only devout Christians. The park recently received approval to claim $18 million in state sales tax credits, which Helton said is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for separation of church and state.
The Freethinkers also contend that the story of Noah’s Ark is not appropriate for children.
“God killed everyone,” Helton said. “And the second time he populated the world through incest,” because everyone was descended from Noah.
“We’re not saying they can’t build it, but it’s not an appropriate family park,” Helton said.
The Freethinkers formed in 2013, and soon made themselves known to Answers in Genesis, the parent company of the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, by adopting the highway in front of the museum.
Ken Ham, co-founder of Answers in Genesis, “thanked us for keeping the highway clean and told us we were going to hell,” Helton said.
Ham couldn’t immediately be reached for comment but has written frequently on his blog about the Freethinkers and other atheist groups that oppose his projects.
“In 2007, an atheist group in Kentucky organized a protest outside the gates of the Creation Museum when it was opened,” Ham wrote in March. “Their protest only brought more publicity to the Creation Museum and an increasing recognition of these atheists’ intolerance to anything Christian and their rejection of equal rights for Christian groups. I’m sure their latest proposed protest of the opening of the Ark Encounter will likewise bring more attention to this world-class, themed attraction.”
In an April blog post, Ham said the billboard campaign “highlights how intolerant these secularists are of Christians exercising their right to freedom of religion — and also highlights how inconsistent they are in their beliefs. They don’t want people to be exposed to the truth of God’s Word.”
In 2014, Ham held a nationally televised debate with Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” on the viability of creationism. Both sides claimed victory.
The Ark Encounter is scheduled to open July 7.
Helton said the group managed to raise the $10,000 in just a few days on the crowd-funding website IndieGoGo, and they continue to look for someone to display their billboard. He hopes the campaign will pick up national traction, especially since the Ark Encounter is not expected to hire openly gay employees.
“We had a record number of memberships once we said we’d do this,” Helton said.