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Controversial Noah's ark opens in Kentucky

Associated Press Associated Press 8/07/2016 Dylan Lovan

A 150-metre Noah's ark attraction built by Christians who say the biblical story really happened is ready to open in Kentucky.

Since its announcement in 2010, the $US100 million ($A133.66 million) ark project has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education and shouldn't have won state tax incentives.

"I believe this is going to be one of the greatest Christian outreaches of this era in history," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built the ark.

Ham said the massive ark, based on the tale of a man who got an end-of-the-world warning from God about a massive flood, will stand as proof that the stories of the Bible are true.

"People are going to come from all over the world," Ham said to thousands of people in front of the ark.

The ark opened to the public on Thursday and Ham's group has estimated it will draw two million visitors in its first year, putting it on par with some of the big-ticket attractions in nearby Cincinnati.

The group says the ark is built based on dimensions in the Bible. Inside are museum-style exhibits: displays of Noah's family along with rows of cages containing animal replicas, including dinosaurs.

The group believes that God created everything about 6000 years ago - man, dinosaur and everything else - so dinosaurs still would've been around at the time of Noah's flood. Scientists say dinosaurs died out about 65 million years before man appeared.

An ark opponent who leads an atheist group called the Tri-State Freethinkers said the religious theme park will be unlike any other in the nation because of its rejection of science.

"Basically, this boat is a church raising scientifically illiterate children and lying to them about science," said Jim Helton, who lives about a half-hour from the ark.

Ham said the total cost of the ark surpassed $US100 million, a far cry from a few years ago, when fundraising for the boat was sluggish and much larger theme park plans had to be scaled back.

"It's a clear violation of separation of church and state. What they're doing is utterly ridiculous and anywhere else, I don't think it would be allowed," Helton said.

Philip Steele, one of the thousands who got an early preview of the ark on Tuesday, echoed Ham's often repeated comment that the sales tax generated by the ark wouldn't exist if the ark was never built.

"I just don't think they understand it," Steele said of the ark's critics. "They'll be able to keep a portion of (the sales tax) to further their ministry, but so be it."

When Ham was asked about the tax incentive at the Tuesday event, he drew loud cheers when he proclaimed no taxpayer money was used to the build the ark.

Millions of people first learned about plans for the ark during a debate on evolution between TV personality and high-profile science advocate Bill Nye and Ham in early 2014. A video of the debate has 5.4 million views on YouTube.

Nye later said he didn't realise the attention it would draw and said he was "heartbroken and sickened for the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

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