Ark Wars: No, Kentucky Is Not Taking Money From Public Schools And Giving It To the Ark Encounter


I unapologetically support the Ark Encounter.

The Ark Encounter will, among other things, display a full-sized Ark based on the Scriptural account to demonstrate the feasibility of the Genesis Flood account and counter the erroneous doubt-creating cultural image of a cutesy bathtub toy Ark with two girraffes sticking out the top. One would suppose that Christians would want to support such a venture, since it underscores the historical reliability and authority of the Bible. Yet they repeat the misrepresentations of the atheist mockers!

From the beginning, critics have claimed that the Ark Encounter will be receiving money from tax payers to fund it. This has never been true.Despite all efforts to correct this shamelessly false propoganda, atheists and other unbelievers have continued to spread it because the emotional argument it presents is useful to their efforts to prevent its opening.

Now the claim is being made that Kentucky is cutting funding to education and giving that money to the Ark Encounter. This is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth; in fact, it is simply a spin on the very same lie Barry Lynn spread via his “Ark Park” snark video.

For example, a recent Huffington Post article states that:

“Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has proposed a 2012-2013 budget that includes heavy cuts to some key departments while giving a $43 million tax break to a massive creationist theme park.” [This includes a] “6.4 percent cut to Kentucky’s higher education department, a 2.2 percent cut to the State Police force and sizable cuts to other agencies… At the same time, however, Beshear has proposed going through with a $43 million tax break to Ark Adventure, an 800-acre amusement part that is expected to include a three-stories high, two-football-fields long “replica” of Noah’s Ark. On top of the tax break, Think Progress reports that the governor’s budget includes $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the park.” [brackets mine]

Two things about this article bother me.

First, I find it difficult to believe that the author of this post did their homework adequately when the article twice refers to the Ark Encounter as the “Ark Adventure” [this, despite the fact that they provide the correct link to the Ark Encounter website!]

Second, this article gives the false impression that Kentucky is taking funds from public education, law enforcement and other public services, while giving the Ark Encounter $43 million.

I’ll let Answers in Genesis’ CCO, Mark Looy, explain the nature of this lie, as he did in a comment on the HuffPo site:

“I am writing to correct the gross misrepresentation about the Ark Encounter LLC and its funding. Many readers have come to a completely wrong idea about Kentucky’s involvement. No taxpayer money will be coming out of the state budget to fund the Ark. It is all about a rebate of sales tax collected at the Ark. The only taxpayer involved is the person who will visit the attraction and pay sales tax on tickets, food, and merchandise. A portion of that sales tax might be refunded to the Ark LLC if certain attendance targets are hit. In other words, no money will come from the state budget to the Ark. In actuality, the Ark Encounter will ADD millions of dollars to the state treasury annually.

If the Huff Post claims it was not misleading, why have there been so many comments left by readers who have made claims like Kentucky will “cut $50 million from the education budget to pay for the tax cuts for this,” and another said that the Ark is “taking money from education and other social programs”? The converse is true: there will be a net to the state as it receives millions of dollars from sales tax collected at the Ark and through other Ark-related sources (e.g., payroll taxes from thousands hired as a result of the Ark; millions of dollars generated as visitors pay taxes as they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, etc.). Mark Looy, CCO, Answers in Genesis

Unfortunately, the HuffPo isn’t the only one out there spreading this misinformation. A blogger who styles himself as the Friendly Atheist states the following:

“Governor Beshear has basically used $54,000,000 of taxpayer money to help the Biblical Ark Park.  And he took $50,000,000 away from the education budget.

In other words, the Governor just took away $100,000,000 that could have gone toward educating people.

It’s possible the theme park could draw in customers and provide jobs for some people — but to promote something that is the antithesis of what the children should be learning in their schools is not just wasteful, it’s dangerous.

Where did the Friendly Atheist get his information? Among older sources, he cites a post by PZ Myers, an article from ThinkProgress [also cited by the HuffPo] and an article from Kentucky.com [which he erroneously links as his source for the news about the “tax cuts” the Ark Encounter will receive,entions the Ark Encounter].

Since we’ve mentioned PZ Myers, it should come as no surprise that he repeats the misrepresentation:

“Funding for K-12 education: -$50 million

Tax breaks for the Ark Park: +$43 million

Highway improvements for the Ark Park: +$11 million

See? Almost perfectly balanced: all the money handed over to creationists is taken away from education.”

Once again, PZ Myers cites ThinkProgress as his source. While PZ, the Friendly Atheist, and the HuffPo weren’t alone in uncritically passing on misinformation they gleaned from other sources, it is nonetheless telling that they apparently didn’t bother to fact-check their sources. I suspect they didn’t bother because it sounded like what they wanted to believe anyway…

I might expect such things from unbelievers, but since it is not true that the Ark Encounter is receiving tax money, much less tax money taken from public education, we wonder why so-called men of God are also involved in spreading such things?

To give an example, a misguided theology student here in Appalachia made the following statement after reading that HuffPo article:

“Honestly… a 43$ million dollar tax cut and a 11$ million dollar interstate interchange… Wow… Of course, I guess if you actually want people to believe in unicorns, you need to cut funds to education…”

Note that he too simply re-gurgitated the misinformation that the HuffPo article. His unicorn comment refers back to Barry Lynn’s Ark Snark video which willfully misrepresented Answers in Genesis’ position that the Biblical term unicorn likely refers to a real creature, but something more akin to a rhinoceros than the fairy tale creature of pop culture. I submitted a comment to his site, noting where he’s repreated misinformation, but he has as yet neither published the comment nor corrected his post.

Dr. James McGrath of Butler University made a similar statement:

“The news is circulating that Kentucky’s budget provides tax breaks for the Ark Park by cutting funding in education, and so the state is doing double damage to education. “

I left the links intact on this one so that you could see who he’s source-quoting: Skeptic.com [who cited ThinkProgress as their source], atheist mockstar PZ Myers and the blogger who styles himself the Friendly Atheist.

You may have noticed a common element emerging here: Travis Waldron’s post on ThinkProgress. While Waldron cites a Kentucky.com article, that article doesn’t mention the Ark Encounter. Additionally, the Kentucky.com article goes on to mention a few things that Waldron’s polemical post conveniently leaves out, like:

  • The fact that the main funding formula for K-12 schools is exempt from the 8.4 percent cuts; though he does cite the fact that the “cut of more than $50 million to that funding formula” is the result of increased population growth, which means “spending per student would decline,” he goes on to claim that “lawmakers could jeopardize Kentucky’s substantial gains in K-12 education and ensure ballooning tuition rates at its colleges and universities, all while they preserve tax breaks for what critics have dubbed the “Ark Park.” This latter statement again gives the false impression that Kentucky is taking money from public schools, while giving money to the Ark Encounter and this is simply not true.
  • Of the $815 million in new spending the Kentucky state budget includes “$88 million for increased health insurance costs for state workers and retired teachers” and “$15 million to expand preschool to an additional 4,430 Kentucky children.”
  • He likewise states that “Proponents of the park, Beshear included, have claimed it will boost tourism and create jobs, but those assumptions are based on a report done by the park’s developers.” Here he fails to note that no tax rebates will be given unless proposed attendance targets are met. His omission of this pertinent fact is telling and makes his attempt to poison the well futile.

These telling facts coupled with Mark Looy’s correction amply refute Waldron’s well-circulated claim. My hope is that Waldron simply got his wires crossed.  If so, we happily extend him the opportunity to apologize for the misunderstanding and to clarify, retract and/or correct any misleading statements accordingly. Likewise, we extend the same opportunity to anyone else who might have passed on this misinformation without being careful first to fact-check these claims.

In any case, this lack of fact-checking underscores the truth of Michael Denton’s observation:

“…contrary to what is widely assumed by evolutionary biologists today, it has always been the antievolutionists, not the evolutionists, in the scientific community who have stuck rigidly to the facts and adhered to a more strictly empirical approach.” – Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, p. 353.

Think about it,
Rev Tony Breeden

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ben says:

    You only leave links to the sites claiming these tax cuts, not to any actually proving that there are no tax cuts to the park. Please provide YOUR sources besides a copy and pasted letter from Mark Looy. You propose your thesis, but do not back it up. I’m willing to believe that you are right, but I need to see the proof.

    1. Then here you go, Ben:

      http://grantcounty.ky.gov/Ark+Project.htm

      Regards,
      Rev Tony Breeden

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