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This Week in God, 2.18.17

A faith-based theme park, which receives taxpayer support, has a new exhibit: "gladiator-style fights involving humans, giants and a dinosaur."
A visitor looks into a cage containing a model dinosaur inside a replica Noah's Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky.
A visitor looks into a cage containing a model dinosaur inside a replica Noah's Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. 
First up from the God Machine this week is an update on a faith-based theme park regular readers are probably familiar with. The Huffington Post reported this week:

A new display going into the creationist Noah's Ark attraction in Kentucky shows what appears to be gladiator-style fights involving humans, giants and a dinosaur.Ken Ham, founder of the group that runs the attraction, tweeted images of the new diorama on Thursday.... Ham, who believes in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible, claims the planet is roughly 6,000 years old, that humans existed alongside dinosaurs and that Noah even carried dinosaurs with him on the ark during a global flood roughly 4,300 years ago.

In fact, that appears to be one of the key points of the theme park itself. Revisiting our coverage from July, this isn’t just a fun excursion for tourists. The point of “Ark Encounter” is to promote a Christian ministry’s worldview, “share the gospel,” and encourage visitors to embrace young-earth creationism. This ark’s builders genuinely believe the story of Noah is literally true – complete with dinosaurs on the replica of the mythical boat.And while everyone is free to choose their own spiritual path, the Christian ministry that built this park demanded and receivedtaxpayer subsidies for the project, despite the fact that all employees – including staff whose responsibilities have nothing to do with religion – will be required to be Christian and sign a written document professing “Christ as their savior.”
Indeed, those hoping to work at “Ark Encounter” must also submit a “creation belief statement” before being hired, which includes endorsing the idea that the planet is roughly 6,000 years old.
The fact that Kentucky taxpayers are subsidizing all of this may seem legally problematic, but a Bush/Cheney-appointed federal judge cleared the way for the public assistance, and Gov. Matt Bevin (R), delighted with the outcome, did not appeal the case that had been litigated by his Democratic predecessor.Also from the God Machine this week:* BJU: "In a move that’s been more than two years in the making, Bob Jones University announced Wednesday it would regain its federal tax-exempt status on March 1, more than three decades after the IRS stripped its nonprofit status following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling."* A high school French teacher who lives in Cookeville, Tennessee, has received some well-deserved praise of late for having "challenged her representative in Congress, Republican Diane Black, on the Affordable Care Act at a public meeting," and having "framed her personal support for the health care reform in explicitly religious terms."* Religious liberty discussed on Capitol Hill: "Yesterday a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee convened a hearing on 'The State of Religious Liberty in America.' It was supposed to be yet another installment in a long-running series: opponents of LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights seek to promote discrimination under the guise of religious freedom."* Interesting polling data: "On the heels of a contentious election year in which partisan politics increasingly divided Americans, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that when it comes to religion, Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups today than they did just a few years ago. Asked to rate a variety of groups on a 'feeling thermometer' ranging from 0 to 100, U.S. adults give nearly all groups warmer ratings than they did in a June 2014 Pew Research Center survey." Muslims and atheists are still at the bottom, but even these constituents enjoy marginally more popularity than a few years ago.