The Washington Post recently ran a long story about Ark Encounter, the Williamstown, Ky., creationist attraction founded by Ken Ham, who leads the fundamentalist Religious Right organization Answers in Genesis. Although some readers found the story to be oddly sympathetic to Ham, some interesting tidbits are found in it.
The Ark Park has received state support and various sweetheart deals but is failing to provide revenue for the city, yet Ham ignores this and is planning to expand anyway, including adding an 800-seat restaurant and a 2,500 seat auditorium for events.
He even told The Post that Grant County, where the park is located “should be thankful we’re here” because his park is “creating all these extra jobs in the community, which wouldn’t be there if we weren’t here.”
But those “extra” jobs in the community discriminate against non-believers, LGBTQ people and well, anyone with a secular outlook on science and human rights. According to the report, prospective employees must sign a form rejecting evolution in order to be employed by the biblical theme park.
“As a condition of employment, the museum and ark staff of 900, including 350 seasonal workers, must sign a statement of faith rejecting evolution and declaring that they regularly attend church and view homosexuality as a sin,” the story notes. “So any non-Christians, believers in evolution, or members of the LGBT community – and their supporters – need not apply.”
When it comes to the bottom line, county officials deny that the park is doing much good for the area.
The Ark park is failing to bring revenue, yet Ham wants to expand it.
“In terms of revenue for the county, we don’t get too much from them,” the county’s chief executive, Stephen Wood, told The Post. “I hate it, but that’s the deal.”
Wood had previously told WKYT-TV that he “was one of those believers that once the Ark was here everything was going to come in. But it’s not done it. It’s not done it. I think the Ark’s done well and I’m glad for them on that. But it’s not done us good at all.”
Needless to say, Ham’s creationist park isn’t living up to its expectations, which included estimates from consultants that the park would create about 20,000 jobs and bring $40 billion in tourism revenue. Instead, the park has 900 faith-exclusive employees, about a third of which are seasonal.
Besides his false padding of the park’s success, Ham is also failing to attract the public to buy into his brand of Christian fundamentalism that seeks to discredit valid scientific theories like evolution. Americans United’s executive director Barry W. Lynn noted this to The Post.
“Why would the state indirectly subsidize a nonsensible alternative to evolution?” Lynn said. “It’s not good science. It’s not good anything. It ought to be unacceptable for a state at any level to treat this like one more bond-funded enterprise. Most Christians do not accept this as a literal or natural interpretation of the Bible.”
It’s clear that AU remains on Ham’s mind. He complained to The Post that he can’t get public school groups to visit his big boat because school officials fear they will “get threatened” by Americans United. I’m not sure if “threatened” is the right word, but our attorneys would certainly not hesitate to remind any public school thinking of taking a field trip to the Ark Park that it needs to abide by the Constitution. (Some schools do visit – they are private Christian academies, and Ham admits that most of the park’s visitors are already creationists.)
Ham should face reality: The number of people who want to see an attraction based on his narrow fundamentalist vision is limited. Ham says he wants to open a new attraction every year, but at some point, he should just admit that the ship is sinking.