by William Trollinger
Ken Ham has to be thrilled.
Mike Johnson – young Earth creationist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion extremist, and election denier – is now Speaker of the House. More than this, Johnson has done legal work for Ark Encounter, helping to ensure that Ham’s big (albeit unseaworthy) boat annually receives a sales tax rebate of $1.825 million, as part of Kentucky’s tourism development program.
But despite the fact that his ideological and work buddy is now, after the Vice President, next in the line of succession for the presidency of the United States, Ham is angry, angry that news stories on Johnson and Ham make the point that “Kentucky taxpayers helped fund” the Ark:
Do we even need to be reminded that we can’t trust much of the secular media and that they will lie for the purpose of maligning those they don’t agree with . . . At Answers in Genesis, we have stated so many times that the Ark was funded 100% by private funding. Let me say it again: the Ark Encounter project and the Creation Museum were both funded 100% by private funding.
Let’s leave aside the question of whether the sales tax rebate qualifies as public funding. For all of his self-righteous bluster re: the “secular media,” Ham conveniently and consistently fails to acknowledge that the little town of Williamstown provided the Ark with all sorts of public assistance:
- The town gave Answers in Genesis (AiG) $175,000.
- The town gave the Ark 98 acres for the princely sum of $1.
- Most important, the town underwrote $62 million of junk bonds for the Ark construction project, in the process (and here’s what makes this deal so sweet) agreeing that 75% of the Ark’s property taxes would go to repaying the bonds, and not to the local government.
If this is not public funding, I don’t know what is.
Of course, Williamstown agreed to subsidize the Ark in hopes that this fundamentalist tourist attraction would result in an economic boon for the town. The town was sold on this dream thanks to AiG’s feasibility report, which claimed that the Ark would attract an estimated 1.6 million visitors in the first year, and that these numbers would go up for the next decade by an average of 7% each year after that.
Well, Ark Encounter annual attendance has never reached 1 million. And last year (July 2022-June 2023) the Ark welcomed 782,660 visitors – not an insignificant number, but only 36% of the 2.18 million that had been projected.
Williamstown has not come close to enjoying the economic boon it had imagined when it was sold on the junk bond deal by AiG. As David MacMillan – featured in the brilliant documentary “We Believe in Dinosaurs” – has put it, “Ham fleeced a town that gave him his Ark Encounter.”
But not only does Ham refuse to come clean about the fact that Williamstown helped subsidize the Ark, but he has (appallingly) claimed that this little town has only itself to blame for its lack of economic growth, in that it happens to be on the wrong side of the interstate (which, of course, is precisely where it was located when AiG made its sales pitch).
Do we even need to be reminded that we can’t trust much of what Ken Ham has to say?
Not to mention his compatriot, Mike Johnson.