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Complaints lead zoo to drop Creation Museum promo

CINCINNATI (BP)–A Christmas season partnership between the Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum aimed at boosting tourism has ended days after it was launched, with the zoo pulling out after receiving a significant number of complaints.

As planned, the partnership would have allowed visitors to see both attractions for $25.95 (one adult admission), a savings of $9 compared to the normal combined price. It had been in the works for months and was designed as a way to promote the zoo’s Festival of Lights and the museum’s Bethlehem’s Blessings, which features a free live outdoor nativity.

The zoo, though, withdrew from the partnership Dec. 1 before any combo tickets were sold. In a unique twist, the Creation Museum — which opened in 2007 and presents a scientific explanation for the biblical view of creation — says it will offer the full $9 discount anyway on its adult tickets through Dec. 11 (with the exception of Dec. 6).

Some of the complaints asserted that the zoo was partnering with an attraction that promotes pseudo-science. Others said the zoo shouldn’t be partnering with a museum that promotes a religious viewpoint of creation. The museum teaches that the universe is thousands, and not millions, of years old.

“They seem like diametrically opposed institutions,” James Leach, a Cincinnati radiologist, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city’s treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock.”

But the zoo and the museum — which has had more than 600,000 visitors since it opened in May 2007 — said the partnership was no different than similar ones the zoo has with the Cincinnati Reds and the Newport Aquarium. The $27 million, 60,000-square-foot museum is located in Petersburg, Ky., just across the river from Cincinnati. It is operated by Answers in Genesis.

“We are disappointed with the zoo’s decision and its impact on the families and visitors to the region who would have enjoyed taking advantage of this opportunity to make this a truly memorable Christmas,” Creation Museum founder and president Ken Ham said in a statement. “Both the Creation Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo have put together spectacular Christmas displays, and we were excited to partner with them to promote these events in a combination package that would have been of great value to the community.”

Ham added that he and his family are members of the Cincinnati Zoo and that the museum has and will continue to promote the zoo, which he describes as “excellent,” on the museum’s website and in printed materials.

“I have learned that the zoo received hundreds of complaints from what appear to be some very intolerant people, and so I understand the zoo’s perspective,” he said. “Frankly, we are used to this kind of criticism from our opponents, and so being ‘expelled’ like this is not a huge surprise…. It’s a pity that intolerant people have pushed for our expulsion simply because of our Christian faith. Some of their comments on blogs reveal great intolerance for anything having to do with Christianity.”

Zoo spokesman Chad Yelton told the Enquirer, “When we partner with the Reds, we don’t get these kinds of e-mails. It’s pretty clear this is more of a distraction.”

In essence, the museum is a creationist answer to popular natural history museums. It features roaring animatronic dinosaurs, more than 50 educational video displays and a special effects theater complete with three screens, vibrating seats, simulated wind and mist. In the year and a half since it opened, museum officials have added a two-story dinosaur-themed “Dino Den” and an outdoor petting zoo, and have expanded the botanical gardens surrounding the museum.

“Anyone who toured the museum on opening weekend or shortly thereafter would be astounded at the number of new and expanded exhibits now on display at the Creation Museum,” museum co-founder Mark Looy said in a statement.

The Bethlehem’s Blessings display opens Dec. 12. The museum’s planetarium (additional charge) will be showing a Christmas Star show.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. More information about the Creation Museum is available online at CreationMuseum.org

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  • Michael Foust