Recently in Ark Park Category

Dan Phelps tells us that Barry Lynn of Americans United will appear alongside Ken Ham (I do not know whether in series or in parallel) on radio station WEKU in Richmond, Kentucky.

Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis will be joining us live via Skype for the show; as well as Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United. Jay Hall from Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts, and Humanities will be live in the studio.

We’re interested in your questions and comments on the park before and during the show at [Enable javascript to see this email address.]. You can leave a voice message at 859-622-1657 or call in when you tune in for EST Thursday morning from 11 to noon on 88.9 WEKU. [Eastern Daylight Time = UTC - 4 h.]

Feel free to tweet about the topic @wekuEST and post to the WEKU facebook page.

Confusingly, Eastern Standard is the name of the show, but Richmond is on Eastern Daylight Saving Time. I am listening to Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 on WEKU right now, so I assume the program will be streamed. If you listen to it, please feel free to comment here.

This link is a preview of an Australian television show about the “replica” of Noah’s Ark being built out of gopher steel and concrete in Kentucky. I think it will air next Sunday, and I hope that an online version will be available soon afterward. “Sunday Night” is apparently an Australian news magazine similar to 60 Minutes in the US.

Ken (who you callin’ the a Messiah, bud?) Ham commented on the program here; he seems to have been bent out of shape by a comment made by Bill Nye in the preview. Mr. Ham is an Australian native, and that may be part of the reason that the Australian channel is running the story.

The producers also interviewed the Ark Park’s persistent critic Dan Phelps at length, both in a hotel meeting room in Cincinnati and on an outcrop near Big Bone Lick State Park. I have a feeling that Mr. Ham will be bent further out of shape if Mr. Phelps’s comments are aired.

Dan Phelps just sent us an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader. The editorial accuses Kentucky of seeking science jobs while at the same time denying science: not just evolution but also global warming, alternative energy sources, and conservation. The editorial notes that Kentucky is “perennially short of money,” in part because of tax breaks like that for the Ark Park, and concludes,

Kentucky forgoes tax revenue to help deny science while telling students they need to learn it. In homage to coal, Kentucky dumbly stints on alternative energy technologies, or even conservation, while telling young people they need to prepare to work in advanced manufacturing.

The messages aren’t just mixed, they’re in open conflict.

That about sums it up.

I do not know why it is coming to light only now, but a few years ago a Kentucky elementary school rewarded students with “perfect” attendance by taking them on a field trip to the Creation “Museum.” Americans United has reported the story here, and a few days ago we received a press release from Daniel Phelps, a persistent critic of the Ark Park and the Creation Museum. Mr. Phelps has sent his press release to the Associated Press and elsewhere, but he tells us that he cannot get any reporter interested in investigating. We will reproduce his press release below the fold.

Americans United notes that the school’s definition of “perfect” is somewhat flexible, in that one absence counted as perfect. More importantly, they note

And kids have a right to learn about [certain religious concepts] - on their own time or in Sunday school. Such ideas are not appropriate for an official public school field trip, even if that trip was only offered to a handful of students. Instead, kids should be learning sound science - not religious dogma.

Mr. Phelps argues that the trip is “a clear violation of the separation of church and state” and “an act of educational malpractice.” He is concerned that, although this trip happened in 2012, there may be many like it, and he claims that Answers in Genesis “brags that they have stealth missionaries in the public school system.” Mr. Phelps’s entire press release follows.

Ark “replica” to open around 7/7

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Ken Ham’s Ark “replica” is scheduled to open around July 7, or 7/7, in part because Genesis 7:7 says “and Noah went in and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark,” according to a recent article and a short video by Karla Ward in the Lexington News-Herald. Sorry, no animals inside, but there will be a petting zoo outside. The animals inside the ark will be “sculpted.”

Among other things that are possibly of interest to PT readers, Mr. Ham asserted that guidelines for hiring employees at the Ark Park “will be different than Answers in Genesis.” No telling exactly what that means, but presumably they will not require employees to pass as stringent a religious test. It seems to me that they could have saved a lot of litigation by having asserted nondiscriminatory guidelines in the first place.

In passing, Ms. Ward notes that a journalist asked Mr. Ham whether he believed in the Noah story as a historical event, rather than as a piece of literature and not intended to be understood literally. Mr. Ham’s response was, “Jesus referred to Noah. He’s referred to as a real person and a man of great faith.” That sure proves it!

Finally, Mr. Ham noted that the Ark will feature dinosaurs, but they will not be stressed. I suppose that there will be no unicorns in the Ark, because as everyone knows they got to the pier late.
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Thanks yet again to Dan Phelps for a never-ending stream of articles that keep us up-to-date.

Judge rules in favor of Ark Park

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A Federal judge ruled yesterday that the Ark Park is entitled to sales tax incentives that had been denied by the state of Kentucky, according to an article by Dylan Lovan. Briefly, District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that the state cannot exclude the Ark Park from receiving the tax incentive simply because the park has a religious purpose. Further, although Mr. Lovan does not note it, the judge opined that the Ark Park is within its rights to discriminate in employment on the basis of religion (and still receive the tax incentive), because it is clearly a religious organization.

Americans United, in a blog post, called the ruling “radical” and argued that Kentucky would have had a good chance of winning on appeal, based on a 2004 Supreme Court decision, Locke vs. Davey, wherein the court gave states “discretion to exclude religious programs from otherwise neutral funding schemes.” The ruling is unlikely to be appealed, according to the Associated Press, because the newly elected Republican governor is “pleased” with the decision.
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Thanks to Dan Phelps for the tip and for the transcript of the Judge’s ruling.

By David MacMillan.

David has been fascinated by the creation/evolution controversy for many years. Growing up, he was fully committed to creationist apologetics. He purchased a lifetime charter membership to the Creation Museum and even had blog posts featured on the Answers in Genesis website. During college, he continued to actively pursue creation apologism as he earned a degree in physics, but began to recognize the mounting religious and scientific problems with young-earth creationism. His renewed investigation uncovered more and more misconceptions implicit in creationism, and he eventually rejected it as both theologically indefensible and scientifically baseless. He now writes extensively about young-earth creationism for several websites.

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Note added December 30, 2015: This article has been cross-posted at Naturalis Historia, the blog of Joel Duff. As David MacMillan notes below, in a comment, “He gets a slightly different readership and has attracted the attention of AiG before so it will be neat to see whether they deign to reply.”
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As the strict young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis work to complete their Ark Encounter “theme park”, they have expended an impressive amount of energy organizing the millions of species of land animals alive today into a handful of small groups they call “baramins”. They claim these groups represent the original created kinds of which Noah would have brought pairs onto the ark. This consolidation of numerous species into single “baramin” groups is driven primarily by the space on Noah’s purported vessel. The smaller the menagerie the Ark was purported to have contained, the more feasible it seems, and so the “baraminologists” at Answers in Genesis have gone to great lengths to explain how the vast array of species today could have been represented by a relatively low number of ancestral pairs.

One well-known hallmark of modern young-earth creationism is the dogma of separation between “microevolution” and “macroevolution”. Although early opponents of Darwinian evolution categorically denied that speciation or natural selection were possible at all, advances in genetics and biology made this position completely untenable. In response, creationists (particularly the young-earth crowd) protested that while “microevolution” was a viable, observable process in biology which they accept as “change or speciation within a kind”, the notion of “macroevolution”, or “change between kinds”, remains impossible. These definitions beg the question by presuming such things as discrete “kinds” exist, but creationists are nonetheless insistent that while adaptation or speciation within a particular “baramin” is observable (and, indeed, necessary in order to account for the present observed diversity of life), there is never any overlap between separate kinds. Their most well-known example of “kinds” is the difference between cats and dogs, where they explain that the diversity of dog breeds is the result of “microevolution” from some original dog/wolf kind, but that dogs will never “macroevolve” into cats.

Unfortunately for the young-earth model, the push to minimize the number of animals riding on the Ark has exposed a major problem with this view. Ironically, this problem is perhaps nowhere more apparent than with the very clade (the technical/evolutionary equivalent of the term “kind”) to which cats and dogs belong: Order Carnivora.

The Answers in Genesis website has repeatedly posted large, detailed lists of various species, families, and orders with attempts to organize them into baramins. One of the largest such postings, by retired veterinarian Jean Lightner, organizes the majority of Order Carnivora into eight distinct “baramins”: felines, civets, dogs, hyenas, bears, weasels, mongooses, and red pandas.

MacMillan_Baramins_Fig_1_600.jpg

Figure 1. The eight major carnivorous “baramins”, as claimed by young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis.

Excellent article, What Ken Ham Isn’t Telling You About Ark Encounter Funding, by Tracey Moody, regarding the financing of the Ark Park. Much is already known to PT readers, but the iceberg is bigger than we thought. Besides for-profits masquerading as nonprofits, it appears that the Ark Park is eligible for tax-increment financing, whereby the Ark Park (or some incarnation thereof) receives a loan that is paid back (if at all) by property taxes. The property taxes go to paying off the loan, rather than to the community, until the borrower goes bankrupt.

Read Ms. Moody’s article!

Noah’s Ark was a basket

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Coracle.png

By Nile and Tigris Journeys in Egypt and Mesopotamia on behalf of the British Museum between the years 1886 and 1913 (1920), showing coracles, or circular boats woven from reeds and sealed with pitch. Wikimedia, public domain.

The other day I watched a Nova program, Secrets of Noah’s Ark. Not much wholly new, and not a whole lot of secrets, but if you watch the program, you will learn of cuneiform inscriptions that describe how the gods precipitate a universal flood, Atrahasis builds an “ark” in the form of a circular basket 220 ft in diameter (70 m for those with better taste), and life begins again, precisely as in the Noah story. Or perhaps it is the other way around: the Jews during the Babylonian captivity took the story of Atrahasis and embellished it by making it a sort of morality play.

At any rate, if you watch the video, you will find that the Ark was more than likely a round, woven boat, known as a coracle, as in the picture above. Such boats are woven from reed ropes and sealed with pitch; they have been used for several millennia. The attempt to manufacture a coracle on a large scale was also interesting, even though it ended in only partial success.

Noah’s Ark is said to have been a rectangular box (Genesis 6:15). Doubtful. More than likely, the Ark was a coracle. It was not, at any rate, shaped the least bit like a certain model being built in Kentucky right now.

Simon Brown of Americans United reports that 2 Kentucky lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would prohibit local public schools from beginning the fall term before late August. The avowed purpose of the legislation is to support the Ark Park. One of the legislators, Damon Thayer, explained,

Grant County is set to become a major tourist destination due to the presence of the Ark. But there won’t be many families from Kentucky visiting in August if we continue with the current calendar

Mr. Brown points out in his article, however, that if the Ark Park will truly get 2 million visitors in its first year, the vast majority will not come from Grant County and thereabout. Local school officials are not so keen on the idea either.

In addition, and not entirely off topic, Dan Phelps notifies us of another editorial (available in hardcopy only) by Mark Looy of Answers in Genesis. Mr. Phelps writes that Mr. Looy

will not admit that AIG’s loss of the tax incentive is because of their discriminatory hiring practices. He ignores the advertisement for Computer Assisted Design technician from a year ago that got them in trouble. If you recall, the advertisement required adherence to AiG’s statement of faith, salvation history, and membership in very specific types of Christian churches. Furthermore, when Ark Encounter originally received the tax incentive in 2010/2011 they specifically said they would not discriminate in hiring.

Ark Encounter is a for-profit corporation, and Mr. Looy knows perfectly well how to get his tax incentives restored; as I noted recently,

… Ark Encounter’s tax incentives will be restored, if only they pledge in writing that they will not discriminate in employment. Ark Encounter has so far declined to give such assurance, which makes a body speculate that they just might be thinking of laundering all Ark Encounter employment through Answers in Genesis in order to circumvent the law.

Dan Phelps alerted us to the fact that AIG’s Allosaurus fossil had been donated by an organization headed by Michael Peroutka, a man affiliated with “a white supremacist, neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Mr. Phelps now writes,

Interesting that this press release didn’t get any coverage when I sent out the information last year. The Creation Museum received an Allosaurus dinosaur fossil appraised at $1 million from a donor who was on the Board of Directors of the League of the South. Various politicians are returning donations from hate groups after the recent Charleston shooting. According to the Encyclopedia of Modern American Extremists and Extremist Groups (by Steven E. Atkins, 2002, Greenwood Press), “Close ties have been formed between the LOS [League of the South] and the Council of Conservative Citizens with a significant cross-membership” (p. 174). Horrifyingly, Dylann Roof received some of his inspiration from the Council of Conservative Citizens [a direct descendant of the White Citizens’ Councils that were established in the 1950’s, primarily to oppose school integration].

Answers in Genesis (the owners of the Creation Museum) admirably makes anti-racist statements at times, but has taken a valuable donation from Michael Peroutka, a former Board Member of the racist hate group known as the League of the South. Why doesn’t the Creation Museum return the fossil or give it to a real science museum?

Tom Loftus reports in the Louisville Courier-Journal that Gov. Steve Beshear has asked a federal court to dismiss the Ark Park’s lawsuit on the grounds that “[p]roviding the public funding sought for religious purposes …would constitute an unlawful establishment of religion” and thereby violate both the state and federal constitutions. Governor Beshear and his co-plaintiff, state Treasurer Bob Stewart, told the Courier-Journal that “the state’s denial of public funds for the ark park [sic] ‘reflects no hostility toward Plaintiffs’ faith’ and does not prohibit Answers in Genesis and its affiliated organizations from following their religious beliefs.”
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Update, March 31, 2015: Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has submitted a motion to intervene on behalf of four Kentucky taxpayers to “prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to unconstitutionally finance a religious ministry.” According to a press release, the taxpayers argue “that ‘[t]he tax rebates sought for Ark Encounter would effectively compel me, as a Kentucky taxpayer, to subsidize a religious ministry against my will.’” Two of the taxpayers are Christian ministers. AU has also submitted a proposed motion to dismiss, which I take it becomes active if the motion to intervene is granted.

Wave 3, which appears to be Channel 3 in Louisville, Kentucky, reported yesterday that the Ark Park indeed plans to sue the state over tax incentives that were denied last month. Wave 3 reports,

Lawyers say this encounter is about to make an appearance in court and it’s all over tax incentives. The lawyer for the Ark Encounter says it will sue the state in federal court to try to regain the rebates it believes the state should give it for building the biblical attraction.

The link is approximately a transcript of the Wave 3 television broadcast, but the broadcast itself is worth watching – the television reporters got a tour of the construction site, and it looks like they are actually building the model Ark. A nice slideshow, Constructing the Ark Park, is also linked to the Wave 3 Web page.

The lawyer for the Ark Park, Mike Johnson, made an interesting statement:

They had to move over a million cubic tons, I think it was, of dirt.

If that is true, then the ton must be a unit of length, or else they are building the model in a 9-dimensional space. Maybe that is how Noah snuck so many creatures onto the Ark: he dropped them off into some of the extra dimensions. Works as well as any explanation promulgated by AIG. I hope that Mr. Johnson is as good a lawyer as he is an engineer.

Ark Park attendance is estimated to be no more than 640,000 visitors in its best year, down from 1.24 million, according to a report by Tom Loftus in The (Kentucky) Courier-Journal. That is not as bad as it appears – or as good as it appears, depending how you look at it – considering that the project has been scaled back from $172.5 million with many additional attractions to $73 million without.

The Kentucky Secular Society obtained a redacted copy of a report by Hunden Strategic Partners, of Chicago, through the Kentucky Open Records Act and distributed a press release to a handful of reporters. According to the press release, Hunden examined two scenarios: a “mainstream approach” and a religiously based approach “that may represent a specific viewpoint more associated with the Creation Museum.” The religiously based approach would net an attendance of 325,000 in the first year, a maximum of 425,000 in the third year, and then a decline to 275,000 by the tenth year. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis had said in October that “the full-size Noah’s Ark, when it opens in 2016, is estimated to attract up to 2 million visitors a year,” but this estimate was probably based on the earlier proposal. Hunden also estimates a “fiscal impact” of $4.9 million, kind of a paltry return on a total tax-incentive package of $18.25 million.

Hunden also points to a steady decline in previous attendance at the Creation “Museum,” including a projected steep decline in 2014, but the precise figures have been redacted. I cannot tell from the wording whether to credit the report or the Kentucky Secular Society, but the press release claims that the attendance dropped precipitously after the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye in February.

Ed Hensley of the Kentucky Secular Society notes in the KSS press release,

The Hunden Report adds more evidence that the Commonwealth of Kentucky made the correct decision in rejecting the Ark Encounter application for tax incentives. Ken Ham, Ark Encounter, and Answers in Genesis are currently threatening to sue the Commonwealth for the right to have tax-supported religious discrimination in employment. We should consider the contrasting claims of the Hunden report while evaluating their threats.

See here for an article on the threatened lawsuit and here for an article on the Ark Park’s hiring practices.
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Acknowledgment: Thanks again to Alert Reader for forwarding the press release.

Update, 12/11/2014, 12:30-ish MST: A Lexington Herald-Leader editorial has a [f]ew questions for Answers in Genesis, not least,

Why does God need so much taxpayer help?

Really, has God been so lame spreading the good news that AIG must “counter the myths floating around about the Bible-upholding Ark Encounter,” on a digital video board in New York’s Times Square?

Does God need to be defended with the demagogic language AIG and its founder Ken Ham use in the holy war against “intolerant liberal friends,” “secularists,” “Bible-scoffers,” and, the most telling, “agitators outside the state?”

The editorial concludes,

Perhaps Answers in Genesis should give up thanking God that intolerant liberals “can’t sink this ship,” and ask the deity instead whether it can be built without more government handouts.


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I noted in a comment to another article that, according to reporter Joe Sonka, writing in Insider Louisville, The Lost Ark: Kentucky will not grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter,

Kentucky’s Tourism Arts & Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart informed representatives of the proposed Ark Encounter tourist attraction today that their project will not be eligible for up to $18 million in tax incentives from the state, due to their refusal to pledge not to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

and further that

Stewart cited AiG CEO Ken Ham’s Nov. 19 fundraising letter that accused the Beshear administration of religious persecution and reaffirmed their desire to discriminate in hiring based on religion. He also cited other statements throughout the year from AiG officials claiming the purpose of the park is to evangelize and indoctrinate its visitors.

Mr. Stewart wished Ark Encounter well but noted,

“Certainly, Ark Encounter has every right to change the nature of the project from a tourism attraction to a ministry,” wrote Stewart. “However, state tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the Separation of Church and State provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.”

Mr. Sonka appends to his article two letters: The first is from Bob Stewart, the secretary of the state’s Tourism Cabinet, to James Parsons, an attorney for the Ark Park, and outlines the state’s reason for denying the tax incentives. The second is from Mr. Parsons to Mr. Stewart; it looks as though they may have crossed in the mail. Mr. Parsons observes that Ark Encounter is (now) wholly owned by Answers in Genesis and argues that it should therefore be treated as a religious nonprofit. He continues with a lot of material that only a lawyer could love and concludes,

For all these reasons, if you insist on the newly imposed condition in your Letter [sic], it will amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination[,] and my client will have no choice but to seek redress in federal court. [Boldface in original document.]

Viewpoint discrimination generally refers to limiting speech in a public or semi-public space; I would like to hear from a lawyer as to whether that concept can reasonably be extended to a case such as this or whether Mr. Parsons is just whistling past the graveyard.
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Thanks again to my Indefatigable Informant for the tip.

Joe Sonka reported the other day in Insider Louisville that Ken Ham has now attacked his old friend, Steve Beshear, the governor of Kentucky. As Mr. Sonka puts it, Mr. Ham “penned a fundraising letter last week claiming the governor is launching a ‘massive attack’ on their religious freedom and persecuting his organization ‘because of our Christian message.’” Mr. Ham blames atheists and “secularists” for putting pressure on state government officials and avers that “our freedom of speech and freedom of religion … are now under attack.”

In the simplest possible terms,

  1. Nonprofit religious organizations, such as Mr. Ham’s own Answers in Genesis, may legally discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious belief.
  2. For-profit organizations, such as Mr. Ham’s own Ark Encounter, may not legally discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious belief.
  3. You may not try to get around (2) by hiring people to work at Ark Encounter and pretending that they are employees of Answers in Genesis.
  4. If you try to get around (2) in that manner, then Kentucky’s Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet will ask you to pledge in writing that Ark Encounter will not discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion before they will reinstate your tax incentives.

In other words, Ark Encounter’s tax incentives will be restored, if only they pledge in writing that they will not discriminate in employment. Ark Encounter has so far declined to give such assurance, which makes a body speculate that they just might be thinking of laundering all Ark Encounter employment through Answers in Genesis in order to circumvent the law.

Is it any wonder that the Freedom from Religion Foundation has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the nonprofit status of Answers in Genesis and its affiliate the Creation “Museum”?

According to reports by Linda B. Blackford in the Lexington Herald-Leader and Tom Loftus in the Louisville Courier-Journal, here and here, Kentucky authorities have noticed the apparently deceptive hiring practices of AIG and Ark Encounter, and sent a letter informing the proprietors of the Ark Park,

Therefore we are not prepared to move forward with consideration of the application for final approval [of a tax incentive] without the assurance of Ark Encounter LLC that it will not discriminate in any way on the basis of religion in hiring for the project and will revise its postings accordingly.

Update, October 9, 2014, noonish. According to a Reuters dispatch, AIG has said that it will fight for its “religious rights after state officials warned he could lose millions in potential tax credits if he hires only people who believe in the biblical flood.” In a not entirely veiled threat, Mike Zovath told Reuters, “We’re hoping the state takes a hard look at their position, and changes their position so it doesn’t go further than this,” and argued that the state had added a requirement by prohibiting religious discrimination. The state has responded by saying, “We expect all of the companies that get tax incentives to obey the law.”

Schrödinger’s cat is, famously, both dead and alive, simultaneously. There has been doubt as to whether macroscopic objects could be prepared in cat states, but Answers in Genesis has done it! As Ed Hensley of the Kentucky Secular Society observes below, AIG is both a nonprofit and a for-profit entity, simultaneously (a condition that we noted earlier on PT). Following up on material that Dan Phelps acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Hensley sent the following (lightly edited) press release to a number of interested journalists:

Acting on a tip, I checked out Careers at Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum and investigated CAD Technician Designer, Ark Encounter. After clicking “Apply for This Position,” I came upon a pop-up that informed me,

Answers in Genesis, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action employer. We provide equal employment opportunities to all qualified employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, citizenship status, veteran status, disability or any other legally protected status. We prohibit discrimination in decisions concerning recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits, training, termination, promotions, or any other condition of employment or career development.

That is good, because Ark Encounter is a for-profit corporation, but farther into the job application, I encountered

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