by Rob Boston, Senior Adviser for Americans United and Editor, Church & State
Editor’s Note: Today we share an article that appeared earlier this week at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Our thanks to Rob Boston and the editors of Americans United for their permission to re-post Rob’s article here at Righting America.
As we’ve noted many times on this blog, Australian creationist Ken Ham built “Ark Encounter,” a theme park in Grant County, Ky., based on a replica of what Ham believes Noah’s Ark looked like, with a plethora of taxpayer support.
Ham gets mad when Americans United points this out, but it’s true. Bloggers Hemant Mehta and William Trollinger have, on several occasions, listed the various forms of public support Ham’s religious project received.
Americans United never opposed Ham’s building of Ark Encounter, but we did stand against taxpayers being compelled to support what is clearly an evangelistic enterprise. We believe Ham and his Answers in Genesis (AiG) ministry should have relied on voluntary contributions from his co-religionists.
Ham justified the raid on the public purse by asserting that Ark Encounter would be a great boon to the nearby town of Williamstown, whose leaders agreed to float $62 million in junk bonds to get the project going. Town officials clearly believed the attraction would benefit the area economically.
Has it? Trollinger wrote last week that while Ark Encounter is far from sinking, it hasn’t attracted the large number of visitors Ham projected in 2013.
“It has never reached even the minimum number of visitors for its first year of operation,” Trollinger wrote. “And with every passing year the tourist site falls farther short of what AiG promised.”
Trollinger and his wife Susan have visited the ark several times, most recently last month. He writes, “After our March visit to the Ark we drove through Williamstown. Six years after the tourist site was constructed, and as documented by the wonderful film, We Believe in Dinosaurs, Ark Encounter has had little noticeable economic impact on the small town that provided the tourist site with such gifts.”
What about all those jobs Ham promised? Apparently, local residents either don’t want them or don’t qualify for them. (Ark Encounter employees must sign a statement of faith saying they agree with AiG’s fundamentalist religious views.) Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, keeps a close eye and Ham’s doings and pointed out recently that Ham has proposed hiring students from nearby Christian colleges and is raising money to build housing for them on site.
To sum up: Taxpayers in Kentucky were forced to prop up an attraction that promotes fundamentalist Christianity and pseudoscience. The promised economic benefits have not materialized.
We hate to say we told you so, but….