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Creationist Ken Ham's Noah's Ark Theme Park Under Fire as Atheists Asks IRS to Investigate

"Either the Ark Encounter is a religious enterprise and is eligible for tax-exempt donations, or..."

An atheist activist group is urging the Internal Revenue Service to investigate two nonprofit organizations that are involved in the building of a new theme park based on Noah's ark and the Bible.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation fired off a letter to the Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organizations Office Tuesday, taking aim at the way in which Answers in Genesis and its subsidiary Crosswater Canyon, Inc., are fundraising for Ark Encounter, a park scheduled to open in 2016.

Answers in Genesis, which owns the Creation Museum Petersburg, Kentucky, and is run by Ken Ham, is a nonprofit that can offer tax deductible donations, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation notes that the Ark Encounter — the new outfit responsible for the theme park — is a for-profit company.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued in a letter to the Internal Revenue Service that this registration dynamic is fine on its face, but that the way in which funds are being collected might be problematic and a violation of Internal Revenue Service 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 a statement from the atheist group. "On the [Answers in Genesis] website, donors have the option to designate contributions to Ark Encounter."

See a portion of the letter that was sent to the Internal Revenue Service highlighting these grievances below:

Freedom From Religion Foundation Freedom From Religion Foundation

An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation said that it appears as though tax-deductible donations are being collected and then given to the for-profit entity.

Considering that Answers in Genesis created a for-profit entity to take advantage of tax benefits not available to nonprofits, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor is proclaiming that the group "cannot have it both ways."

"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 Freedom From Religion Foundation is advocating for Answers in Genesis to lose its tax-exempt status if it is found in violation of Internal Revenue Service law.

"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 abut the operations of both organizations, they are not operated exclusively for exempt purposes."

Read the letter in its entirety here.

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