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Funding Ark Encounter: The Rest of the Story | Righting America

by William Trollinger

This photo features an up-close view the supposedly accurate replica of Noah's Ark at Ark Encounter in Kentucky. The front end of the Ark is shown with guests wandering around the sides of it.
Ark Encounter, photo (c) 2018 by Susan Trollinger

Even while he blasts the journalists for their secular bias and their unwillingness to tell the truth about Christian ministries, Ken Ham refuses to tell the full story about how his gigantic Ark has been funded.

Ham begins his January 29 post, “The Rest of the (Media) Story,” with a Trump-like “fake news” attack on the press:

In recent times, Americans have been increasingly waking up to the extreme bias of much of the secular media, with an understanding that you just can’t necessarily trust what the media broadcasts or publishes. Of course, we at Answers in Genesis [AiG] aren’t surprised by this at all, as our ministry, especially our Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, has been misquoted and misrepresented and has seen facts distorted and information deliberately left out by many media outlets for many years [emphases Ham’s].

In keeping with this “persecuted Christians” trope, a good part of the post is devoted to the ways in which the press does not accurately describe the ways in which organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) “have misrepresented the First Amendment and threatened schools about taking field trips to the Ark (or the Creation Museum).” According to Ham:

We need to be constantly reminded that groups like the FFRF, ACLU, American Atheists, etc. have an agenda to discriminate against Christianity. And so do many reporters who write articles, magazines, and websites.

In this regard, Ham goes on at great length to defend Ark Encounter against FFRF criticisms that the Ark is receiving a “tax incentive rebate” (according to Ham, not a “tax break”) from the state of Kentucky. According to Ham, the only reason they are “outraged” is “because they want to discriminate against the Ark as it has a distinctively Christian message.” And their atheistic outrage blinds them to the fact that “the Ark has been an incredible revenue generator.”

Leaving aside the alleged persecution of Christians, it is interesting to look at what else Ham has to say about the funding of Ark Encounter:

No state funds were used in the building of the Ark contrary to many media reports . . . AiG spent over $100 million for the first stage of the Ark Encounter, of which $65 million came from bonds funded by our supporters – and those bonds plus interest will be paid off over 15 years.

It is 2019, and Ham continues to fudge the truth when it comes to the funding of Ark Encounter. As we have repeatedly pointed out,

In 2013 the little town of Williamstown, Kentucky issued $62m of junk bonds and loaned Ark Encounter the proceeds to get its project going. It is a sweet deal for the Ark, made much sweeter by the fact that, over the next thirty years, 75% of what Ark Encounter would have paid in property taxes will go to paying off the loan.

It is not clear what Ham means when he says now that the bonds will be paid off over 15 years (15 years from 2013? 15 years from 2019?). What is clear is that Ark Encounter is taking a huge chunk of what would have gone toward property taxes for Williamstown and instead is using this money to pay off its loan.

That is to say, Ark Encounter is being subsidized in a major way by the town of Williamstown. Who is omitting and distorting facts? Will Ken Ham ever come clean?