Religion

Developers of Kentucky Ark-themed park start billboard campaign to counter opposition, 'lies'

Answers in Genesis  has begun a billboard campaign countering what it calls "lies and the vicious opposition of secularists."
Answers in Genesis has begun a billboard campaign countering what it calls "lies and the vicious opposition of secularists."

The developers of an amusement park centered around the biblical story of Noah's Ark are launching a billboard campaign in Kentucky and New York City to counter "lies and the vicious opposition of secularists."

A news release posted online Monday said the first of 16 billboards went up in Lexington over the weekend. Others will be put up in Louisville, Frankfort and in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati area.

And on Tuesday morning, a digital video board will go live in Times Square in New York, delivering a 15-second spot 672 times a day during the holiday season, according to the news release.

The billboards are aimed at driving traffic to the Answers in Genesis website, according to a news release on the site.

Answers in Genesis is the parent of Ark Encounter LLC, which is building the park in Grant County. Answers in Genesis also operates the Creation Museum in Petersburg.

The park has come under criticism in recent months and has not received final approval for a state tax incentive package because of concerns about religious-based hiring practices.

"Many of these secular groups, as they relegate Noah's Ark to a myth, are passing around their own Ark myths," the news release said. "These agitators outside the state are trying to affect the project by spreading misinformation and putting pressure on the state of Kentucky to undermine the project."

The news release says some of the billboards were being put up intentionally near newspaper offices, including that of the Herald-Leader, "because much of the media has been heavily involved in spreading misinformation about Ark Encounter."

A billboard in a photo posted on the website says, "To all of our intolerant liberal friends: Thank God You Can't Sink This Ship."

Groups such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have voiced concerns about proposed state tax incentives for the park.

In July, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval to an incentive package, but the package has not been given final approval.

"It is still pending," Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said Monday night.

The Americans United group notified the state about language in a job application that required a "salvation testimony" and a "creation belief statement."

Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart wrote to Ark Encounter in August, saying, "We are not prepared to move forward with consideration of the application for final approval without the assurance of Ark Encounter LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring for the project and will revise its postings accordingly."

The release posted online Monday said that Ark Encounter "has not yet determined what its hiring policies will be, or whether different levels of employees may have different requirements."

The release said state and federal laws allowed religious organizations to "give employment preference to adherents of their own religion."

"Actually, it would be discriminatory for the state not to give Ark Encounter the same tax incentive that it offers every other tourist attraction," the release said.

Lawson said the tax incentive would allow up to $18 million in sales taxes generated by the park to be rebated to Ark Encounter over 10 years.

How much money the park would get would depend on how much taxes it generates after it was built, he said.

"Even though the denial of the tax rebate would amount to a huge financial loss for our project, the Ark Encounter is moving forward, by God's grace and provision," the release said.

Answers in Genesis said the park's life-size replica of Noah's Ark was expected to open in 2016.

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