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In Response To Dr. Bruce Rinker’s Column “Kentucky Unsettles Own House . . .”

A recent column by Dr. Bruce Rinker on June 17-23 attacked our organization, Answers in Genesis, and the future Ark Encounter, a full-size Noah’s Ark and other attractions in northern Kentucky, south of Cincinnati.

First, it’s a pity that a PhD researcher got it so wrong in discussing the Scopes trial. On the contrary, it WAS lawful to teach evolution in the schools of Tennessee before the famed 1925 trial. It is just that the state’s Butler Act did not permit instructors to teach that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor; the rest of evolution, from molecules to mammals, could be taught with impunity.

Dr. Rinker also greatly misrepresented our Ark Encounter project, scheduled to open in 2014. When he wrote that the project will be built using public funds, here is what he conveniently didn’t tell you: the only taxpayer who will help fund the park is the person who actually visits it and pays sales tax. A portion of the sales tax collected might be refunded to the Ark if certain tourist-attendance milestones are reached. In other words, no money is being taken out of the state budget and away from social programs, education, etc. to fund the project—the only taxpayer involved is the one who voluntarily visits the Ark and pays sales tax.

Dr. Rinker implies the Ark Encounter could be another “failed maneuver” of Christians in America. If the Ark Encounter falters (although two separate, independent studies indicate that the Ark Encounter should attract about 1.5 million visitors a year), why then should an opponent like Dr. Rinker be so alarmed? And if the Ark does not reach attendance projections, then it will not receive a rebate of sales taxes. Bottom line: Kentucky taxpayers will not pick up the tab and there is no financial risk to the state.

Tourist attractions like the Ark Encounter are seen by the state as economic development projects which stimulate the creation of thousands of jobs and will ultimately add millions of dollars of new money to the state treasury each year, not take away.

 To one of his other points:  he should be aware that the Ark Encounter LLC (which owns the facility) is not a religious organization; it is a for-profit group providing a themed tourist attraction based on biblical history. Our non-profit group will design and operate the attraction for the LLC; the tax rebate goes to the for-profit Ark Encounter LLC, not to us.

There is no church-state conflict in another aspect. The state is not compelling anyone to visit the Ark Encounter when it opens. Tourists will come here voluntarily, stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants, and pay state sales tax, and the state benefits from those taxes (plus payroll taxes collected at the new businesses the attraction will generate) — and thousands of people will have new jobs.

 We encourage readers to verify the contents of this letter by going to our website of

– Mark Looy is Chief Communications Officer for Answers in Genesis.

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