- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

A group of atheists has raised over $10,000 toward erecting a billboard that blasts an Noah’s Ark-themed amusement park coming soon to Kentucky, but the fate of their farce is up in the air after two local companies rejected the ad.

The group, Tri-State Freethinkers, had hoped to put up a billboard ridiculing the Ark Encounter, an $150 million theme park scheduled to open in Williamstown, Kentucky, in July.

“Genocide and Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 years of myths,” the proposed billboard would read. Contributors who donated $500 or more to the group’s fundraising efforts were given the option of appearing on the billboard “drowning in the ocean” beneath the hull of Noah’s ark.

Despite raising more than enough money through an online fundraiser, however, the group’s president said he has been left scrambling after being turned down by billboard companies Lamar and Event Advertising and Promotions LLC.

“We tried with everyone we could think of, and these were [billboard] companies that originally were in agreement to do business with us,” Jim Helton, the president of Tri-State Freethinkers, told ABC News Wednesday. “We’re just looking for someone to take our money.”

Boasting roughly 1,500 members across Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, the Tri-State Freethinkers describes itself as a social, academic and activist group that “advocates for equal rights and the separation of church and state.”

Its members have previously set their sights on the group behind the Ark Encounter, a Christian creationist apologetics ministry called Answers in Genesis, and launched its current campaign earlier this year after learning that the church had received $18 million in state sales tax credits toward Ark Encounter, Mr. Heltontold the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Mr. Helton said the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark is not appropriate for children.

“In Genesis Chapters 6-9, the God of the Bible was unhappy with man, so he decided to kill every living thing, except for one family and two of each animal. We see no other way to look at this other than mass genocide,” he told Huffington Post.

“This is the second time that incest was used to populate the world,” he added. “We are taught this story as children as a fun story, as a good story, filled with animals and a boat. People rarely take a look at the actual story because when they do, they realize how immoral it is.”

“We’re not saying they can’t build it, but it’s not an appropriate family park,” he told the Herald-Leader.

Tom Fahey, the manager of Lamar’s Cincinnati office, told the newspaper that its the Tri-State Freethinkers who are being inappropriate.

“We default to accepting most all copy, but if there’s something we deem not appropriate then we don’t run it,” he told the Herald-Leader. “It seemed more inflammatory in nature than anything else.”

Event Advertising and Promotions did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment from the press. Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham, meanwhile, took to Twitter to decry the atheist group’s efforts as an attempt “to impose their anti-God religion on the culture.” The proposed billboard, he added, is “obviously meant to disparage Christians and the God of the Bible.”

“[N]o wonder they were rejected,” added Mr. Ham, whose ministry also operates a similarly controversial Creation Museum around 40 miles away in Petersburg, Kentucky.

Despite the billboard companies decision to walk, Mr. Heltontold WLWT News in Cincinnati that the publicity from the rejection has only helped his group’s efforts.

“We thought when the billboard went up, we knew it would draw national attention once we put up this billboard. And we knew the secular movement would eat it up just on the thought of us doing it. What we were surprised is the international attention we got just stating we were going to do it. We pretty much accomplished that goal without even putting it up,” he said.

Previously, the Tri-State Freethinkers successfully had the group’s name added to a sign in front of Mr. Ham’s Creation Museum after contributing to an Adopt a Highway program. Mr. Helton said the church leader “thanked us for keeping the highway clean and told us we were going to hell,” he told the Herald-Leader.

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