Noah’s Ark Theme Park Under Fire As Atheists Urge IRS to Investigate

Noahs Ark Theme Park

An atheist group has urged Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate the funds of two nonprofit organizations that are involved in the creation of a new theme park. The park is based on Christian motifs like the Bible and Noah’s Ark. Freedom From Foundation Religion (FFRF) sent a letter of complaint to the IRS Exempt Organizations Office earlier this month, informing them of the suspicious ways in which Answers in Genesis and its offshoot company Crosswater Canyon are raising funds for Ark Encounter, the religious theme park, which is scheduled to open in 2016.

Answers in Genesis, run by Ken Ham, is a nonprofit organization that has the power to make tax deductible donations but FFRF claims Crosswater Canyon is a for-profit company. The atheist group explained in its mail that while this registration dynamic may seem unobjectionable on the surface, the way in which funds are being raised may prove to be problematic and an infringement of IRS codes.

“[Answers in Genesis'] fundraising materials include a space for donations to Ark Encounter and note that donations are ‘tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law,’” read the statement from FFRF. “On the [Answers in Genesis] website, donors have the option to designate contributions to Ark Encounter.”

Tax Deductible Donations

FFRF’s attorney said the text on the Answers in Genesis website seems to point towards the possibility that tax-deductible donations are being raised and then given to the for-profit entity. FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor also said Answers in Genesis could not have its cake and eat it too, if it has decided to create a for-profit organization to take advantage of tax benefits, which are not available to nonprofits.

“Either the Ark Encounter is a religious enterprise and is eligible for tax-exempt donations, or [Answers in Genesis] and Ark Encounter can be taken at their word that the park is purely a commercial enterprise,” Gaylor said in a statement.

The atheist group has also demanded Answers in Genesis surrenders its tax-exempt status if found guilty of violating IRS codes.

“FFRF urges the Exempt Organizations Office to examine the operations and tax-exempt status of Crosswater Canyon and Answers in Genesis,” attorney Patrick Elliott concluded in the letter. “Based on information that is publicly available about the operations of both organizations, they are not operated exclusively for exempt purposes.”

Photo Credits: Gannett

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