Taxpayer Funding of Religion

Release Of Documentary Spurs Creationist Ken Ham To Spew More Untruths

  Rob Boston

Last month, PBS stations around the country aired a documentary titled “We Believe in Dinosaurs” about Australian creationist Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, a theme park he built in Grant County, Ky., a few years ago after receiving a package of generous tax subsidies from the state.

The focus of the park is an alleged replica of Noah’s Ark. But as we’ve noted on this blog before, Ham’s ark is nothing like the one described in the Book of Genesis. Ham’s version has electricity, air conditioning, wi-fi and other modern features.

Ham has the right to build the ark however he wants. We at Americans United objected only to the considerable taxpayer funding he received for the project. Ham, who heads a ministry called Answers in Genesis, disputes this. The release of “We Believe in Dinosaurs” got him all worked up again. In a column in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Ham called the documentary “an agenda-driven propaganda piece” and asserted, once again, that his attraction did not receive taxpayer support.

That is simply false. Ark Encounter gets an annual tax rebate from the state. It works like this: Kentucky charges 6 percent sales tax on gross receipts on things like ticket sales, souvenirs and food. Ark Encounter collects the tax and pays it to the state. But once a year, the sales tax that the park paid is refunded to it. The Ark Park pockets the tax money, right out of the treasury.

Furthermore, Ham fed the people of Williamstown, a small town near the park, quite a line about the economic development they could expect from the attraction. But none of that has come to pass, and Ham now says it’s the town’s own fault for being too far away from the park.

“We Believe in Dinosaurs” makes it clear that the Ark Park is an evangelistic enterprise. Ham wants to use the park to convince people that evolution is not true and that they should embrace young-Earth creationism and also his fundamentalist view of Christianity. Ham had every right to build the park with privately raised funds, but he decided to tap the public purse instead. That should not have been allowed.

P.S. Ham has lately been crowing about a poll of USA Today readers that showed that Ark Encounter is the number one religious museum in America. In a press release about the poll, he said, “By the way, one could make the argument that USA Today should have included the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in its list. While most people would not consider the Smithsonian in Washington, DC to be a religious museum, it too promotes a worldview: atheism.” What nonsense. Ham is typical of the Christian nationalists who claim that a secular government that shows no favoritism toward religion is akin to promoting atheism. It’s bad enough that his evangelistic attraction got public support, but he’d also like to teach our children creationism in public schools. Your support of Americans United will make sure that never happens.  

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