Ark Encounter: State-Subsidized Religious Tourism in Kentucky

Ark encounter: State-Subsidized Religoius Tourism in Kentucky

Noah’s Ark may have landed on Mount Ararat, but you can see it in Kentucky off Interstate 75, on State Route 36 in Williamstown. Answers In Genesis, the outfit behind the Creation(ism) Museum, has built a 510-foot-long biblical boat as a tourist attraction, Ark Encounter ($40 admission, $10 parking).  The wooden hull is stocked with pairs of animals said to be on the Ark, including dinosaurs (from the Book of Flintstones?). There’s also a zoo, but don’t expect any dinosaurs there.

Ark Encounter opened on July 7th and was built at a cost $102 million. Of that, $62 million was raised from Industrial Development Bonds issued by the City of Williamstown. The Kentucky state government granted Ark Encounter $18 million in tax incentives and is building a new $10 million highway interchange for the new Christian theme park.

The rationale for granting this public largesse for religious evangelism is that the big boat will stimulate the tourist economy and create jobs. Want to apply for those jobs? You’ll have to sign a statement of faith in Genesis and Jesus Christ, disavowing homosexuality, same-sex marriage and premarital sex. Somehow, Federal Judge Greg Van Tatenhove (alumnus of Christian Asbury University) has ruled that this is all constitutional and isn’t state sponsorship of religion. It seems Ark Encounter is a secular outfit when it gets public funding and tax breaks, but a religious organization when it hires employees. Glory be, it’s a miracle!


“A flagship for a biblical worldview,” Emily McFarlan Miller, New York Times

“Guided by God and Disney, life-size ark rises in Kentucky,” Alain Sherter, CBS News

“Inside Ark Encounter, the Life-Size Noah’s Ark Theme Park That Will Save (Some of) Us All,” Jeff Vrabel, GQ

“Dinosaurs aboard new Noah’s ark,” Reece T. Williams, NY Daily News

“Non-Christians Need Not Apply,” Mark Joseph Stern, Slate

“Financing Themeparks: Bondholders of the Lost Ark,” Cynthia C. Mog, National Law Review

“Surprise! Ark Encounter Isn’t Providing the Economic Boost Local Communities Were Expecting,” Hemant Mehta, Patheos

“Kentucky pays Answers in Genesis $190,000 for attorney fees from lawsuit,” Jason Riley, WDRB


“Pennies from heaven: Tapping into Christian tourism,” Los Angeles Times


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Image (“Ark Encounter, after Edward Hicks”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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