A small group of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana atheists has launched a campaign to buy billboards mocking the message of the Answers in Genesis (AiG) Ark Encounter museum and its July 7 opening.
The 1,500-member Tri-State Freethinkers have raised $10,000 to post negative billboards near the life-sized recreation of Noah’s Ark and to, as their Indiegogo funding page asserts, “drive our billboard around the Ark Encounter every weekend for the entire summer.”
Others not specifically identified with Tri-State Freethinkers have attacked the Ark Encounter with posts on Twitter, accusing God of genocide and questioning the plausibility of the Genesis account.
Conversely, the AiG apologetics ministry has raised $62 million from a bond offering and $33.5 million in donations to build the museum and other attractions just 40 miles from its museum that has attracted 2.5 million visitors since 2007.
Answers in Genesis photo
An artist’s rendering depicts the Ark Encounter set to open July 7 in Williamstown, Ky.
AiG founder and president Ken Ham continues to defend biblical truth.
“This new atheist 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,” Ham said in an April 21st blog post. “They don’t want people to be exposed to the truth of God’s Word.”
“It’s interesting that atheists, who have no foundation for moral absolutes except their own opinion, are accusing the holy and just God – who as Creator has every right to punish sin – of being immoral,” Ham said. “But how do they define immoral? Well, the only way to do that is to appeal to moral absolutes – which are found in God’s Word.”
Tri-State Freethinkers President Jim Helton called the Genesis account of the flood a myth, and describes the Ark Encounter as “immoral and highly inappropriate as family entertainment.” A $500 donation will garner donors a personal image on a billboard, depicting them looking up at the ark as they drown, a predicament Helton termed an “honor.”
“We want to raise enough money to put up billboards all over the area to let people be aware of how horrible this story in the Bible actually is. The more money we get, the more billboards we can put up in all different areas,” Helton said in video at Indiegogo. “In addition too, we want to do a counter protest on their opening day, throw a huge party and invite all the free thinkers and atheists to come from all over and show support for reason and logic and not superstition and myths.”
Three donors have paid enough to be depicted drowning, according to the Indiegogo page.
Among the many Ark Encounter supporters, Commonwealth Policy Center director Richard Nelson said the atheists’ efforts are only providing free advertising for the museum and park.
“Atheists exegeting Bible stories are bound to miss major points,” Nelson wrote in the April 8 Lexington Herald-Leader. “Of all the things to protest as immoral in our day, it is wildly off-target to pick on a Bible story meant to teach what happens to people when they become immoral.
“It is no less ironic that the Tri-State Atheists are imposing their concept of morality from a worldview that is bereft of moral absolutes,” Nelson said.
At least one secular radio host who has supported Tri-State Freethinkers in other actions, Ham noted, is opposed to the billboard campaign.
I-Heart Radio’s Scott Sloan, broadcast on Scott Sloan in Demand in Cincinnati, has called the billboard campaign “petty.”
The Ark Encounter is a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark with 140,000 square feet of exhibit space inside, and flanked by a 1,500-seat restaurant, a lodge, a small zoo and other amenities.
AiG endured a five-year court battle to receive a Kentucky performance-based tax incentive rebate that could amount to $18.25 million. The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved April 25th the incentive that allows developers of certain tourism projects to recover up to 25 percent of the project’s development costs over a 10-year span, based on sales taxes paid by attendees.
Ham hopes the ark and upcoming phases of the biblical theme park, including a World City, a Tower of Babel and a First Century Village, will spur interest in the Bible and encourage many to accept the Gospel.
“The secularists have been trying to shut down people talking about the Bible, talking about Christianity,” Ham has said. “[AiG wants] to do something that will impact the public with the Christian message, in other words, get them talking about it, and the ark certainly will.
“From what our research indicates, up to 2 million people a year could come to this,” he said. “I think it will be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era. I don’t think there’s any other Christian attraction like this … that would impact that many people.”
Ticket information is available at arkencounter.com/tickets/.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)