Officials in Kentucky have apparently decided that they’re willing to endure a large amount of embarrassment if it will bring some mediocre jobs to the state.
Media outlets reported recently that the state will spend $10 million on road improvements near the infamous “Ark Park,” a creationist attraction being erected in Williamstown by Ken Ham.
Ham, an Australian young-Earth creationist and president of the Answers in Genesis ministry, has been milking the state for various forms of tax incentives and support since he conceived the park, officially known as Ark Encounter, a few years ago.
The saga is long and twisted. Here’s the short version: Ham, who already runs a creationism museum in Kentucky, proposed building a theme park centered on a replica of Noah’s Ark. Kentucky officials were at first interested in supporting the project because they thought it might bring jobs to an economically stressed area of the state. They became less interested after Ham announced that he will hire only fundamentalist Christians willing to sign a statement of belief that reflects his far-right theology.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority decided not to give a package of tax incentives to the park. Ham then sued in federal court, charging that he was being discriminated against. Remarkably, he won. Attorneys at Americans United believe the decision is poorly reasoned and might not have stood up on appeal. But Matt Bevin, a Tea Party Republican who courted the Religious Right, was elected governor last year and decided not to appeal the ruling.
Last week, the Authority, now loaded with Bevin allies, voted to give the park $18 million in incentives.
Is there any good news out of this fiasco? Only one tiny bit. A few state legislators actually introduced a piece of legislation to extend summer vacation in Kentucky, apparently under the theory that everyone was going to want to rush to Ark Park. The measure, S.B. 50, died in the House Education Committee.
There is one other factor of consider: the actual construction of the ark. Ham says the park will open shortly after Independence Day, which means there has been a lot of activity at the work site lately.
I’ve seen some photos. Here are some from Ham’s own site. Notice all of the cranes, power tools and heavy machinery. It's telling that Ham, who believes the biblical account of Noah’s Ark is literally true, is unable (or unwilling) to build the ark as Noah did – by hand and without fancy modern equipment.
The account in Genesis 6:14 is actually pretty detailed. God ordered Noah, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.”
Notice that there’s nothing in here about seeking government subsidies for the ark.
Ham, though, decided he could not build his biblical boat without tax incentives from Kentucky and a host of modern tools and machinery.
O ye of little faith!