The Tri-State Freethinkers are raising funds to place billboards around Kentucky's creationist theme park. They want folks to know that the Noah's Ark story is one of genocide, and incest, and may not be appropriate for their children.
Famously, there is a 510 foot representation of Noah's Ark at the theme park. Tri-State Freethinkers would like to put up a bunch of these billboards.
This Newsweek article details how Ken Ham and religious group Answers in Genesis have used Kentucky's laws, and courts, to wrangle citizens into paying for a Christian theme park. I can not even begin to understand the complexity. Here is a sample:
Last month, I flew to Kentucky to meet Ham and tour the ark site and AiG's design studio. The ark—which is still being built at the end of a very long, carefully guarded dirt road with a sign marked "Danger… Keep out"—is hidden from public scrutiny, and for good reason. In order to incentivize building there, Williamstown declared the ark site and the surrounding 1.25 miles a tax increment financing (TIF) district, which is a fancy way of saying that over the next 30 years, 75 percent of sales and real estate taxes generated within the area will go back to fund Ark Encounter. There's also an employment tax for workers in the district, but more on that shortly.
Ham didn't stand up when an assistant shuffled me into his office one Friday afternoon. He has railed against the media time and time again for, he says, falsely claiming that taxpayer money is going toward building the ark. When he speaks, he does so slowly, his words even and calculated. "No Kentucky taxpayer money is going to build the Ark Encounter," he tells me. Several times.
Ham is telling the truth, but it's a literal interpretation of the truth. The money used to build Ark Encounter came from donations of almost $30 million, plus $62 million in high-risk, unrated municipal bonds backed by the project's future revenues. If Ark Encounter never makes significant profits (and bond documents warn that it may not), neither the city nor AiG is on the hook for the bond money. However, according to Mike Zovath, chief actions officer for AiG and Ark Encounter, the millions in tax dollars that will be rebated through the formation of the aforementioned TIF district could go toward repaying the bonds and funding future attractions. What neither of them mentioned in conversations with me or in their many blog posts on the subject is that, as part of the TIF agreement, employees working within the TIF district will be subject to a 2 percent employment tax on gross wages for the next 30 years. In other words, $2 out of every $100 earned by people working at or around the park will go directly to paying off the attraction. So while tax dollars might not actually have been used to build the ark, a boatload that would otherwise go back into the community will instead be used to pay off Ark Encounter's debt.
Help the Tri-State Freethinkers here.