Why is a taxpayer-funded tourism group in Kentucky promoting Creationism?
The Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau is promoting Ark Encounter and fundamentalist Christianity in paid ads
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For nearly two months now, the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau has been running Facebook ads urging people to visit local attractions… including the pro-Creationism Ark Encounter.
At first, those ads might not seem too surprising. The Bureau has a mission “to drive quality of life and economic growth for Northern Kentucky through tourism marketing and destination development.” Whatever you think about Ark Encounter, it’s a local attraction that brings in tourists and claims to boost the local economy.
But notice the wording of the ads:
Just how big was Noah’s Ark? About 510 feet long, 85 feet wi… better yet, come see a full-sized replica for yourself right here in Northern Kentucky. Start planning your trip today.
The Bureau’s website echoes that rhetoric:
The largest timber-frame structure is 510-feet long, seven stories high, and is an exact replica of Noah’s Ark according to the book of Genesis. This beautiful piece of architecture is filled with state-of-the-art exhibitions to tell the true story of Noah and the flood. The Ark Encounter is a sure way to provide your guests with an experience they will never forget. The Ark is large enough to fit thousands of visitors as they witness the dozens of exhibits including animals, Noah’s family, and the flood. Small overnight stays can be arranged at The Ark Encounter for a truly immersive experience.
That’s not an objective description of the place. That’s the sort of advertising spiel you’d get if you asked Creationist Ken Ham to write the ads for you. It calls the wooden structure “an exact replica” of Noah’s Ark. It claims the Ark tells “the true story of Noah and the flood.”
None of that is true. You can’t have a “replica” of something that never existed, and there is no “true” story of Noah or a flood. All of that is Christian mythology.
There is a way for the Bureau to advertise the Ark as a tourist attraction without promoting a conservative Christian mindset, but this ain’t it.
It’s not the first time they’ve done this, either. In 2007, the Bureau described the Creation Museum (the other Answers in Genesis attraction) as a place meant to “counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture.” (They eventually changed the pro-Creationist language after complaints.)
None of this is nefarious. It’s just lazy. Someone probably copied and pasted lines directly from AiG’s websites. But that’s the point. By not accurately describing the places, they failed to do their job. Instead of promoting the attractions, they were promoting a fundamentalist Christian view of the world that is incompatible with reality. They sent a message that people who visited actual museums were somehow anti-Christian.
Even if that was a mistake on their end, why are they making the same mistake now? Those ads for Ark Encounter are currently active on Facebook. And retired scientist Dan Phelps, who’s been a local watchdog for all things Answers in Genesis, has alerted the Bureau to the problem.
In a letter he sent them in early January, he wrote that “Since the NKCVB is in part supported by Kentucky tax money, I argue that such a change [in ad language] would be for the best.”
Phelps also pointed out that there was another problem with promoting those Christian attractions: Answers in Genesis is openly anti-LGBTQ. They will not hire you if you’re in a same-sex relationship, claiming it violates their statement of faith. Their employees aren’t allowed to acknowledge that trans people even exist. As a religious organization, of course, they have every right to promote religious bigotry.
But the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau says they don’t support any of that. At the bottom of their website, they proudly boast of their affiliations with “Destinations International” (a trade group for destination marketing and management professionals) which has a Equity, Diversity & Inclusion initiative and IGLTA (the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association).
Phelps wrote (to all three organizations):
… The imprimatur of these organizations is surprising considering the positions held by AiG, a religious ministry who owns both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. I would like to hear how, in light of AiG’s positions, this approval is given to the NKCVB. I can understand the NKCVB doing some advertising for the Creation Museum and Ark since thy are local attractions. I do not understand how Destinations International DEI Diversity and The International GLBTQ+ Travel Association can possibly support this in light of AiG’s horribly bigoted views.
He’s received no response so far. The seals of approval still appear on the Bureau’s website.
This is how good Ken Ham has it. He doesn’t even have to market his pathetic attractions. He has the taxpayer-funded local tourism group doing it for him, white-washing his Christian bigotry while promoting his specific religious perspective in ads. Best of all? Ham doesn’t have to pay a dime for the publicity.
If that’s what the tourism arm of northern Kentucky is doing, visitors would be better off avoiding the region altogether.
The Ark Encounter is a monument to human ignorance. It should not be getting a cent of public money, either directly or indirectly.
“This is how good Ken Ham has it. He doesn’t even have to market his pathetic attractions. He has the taxpayer-funded local tourism group doing it for him, white-washing his Christian bigotry while promoting his specific religious perspective in ads. Best of all? Ham doesn’t have to pay a dime for the publicity.“
And yet, he has yet to make the attendance numbers he expected his first year.