Recently there was an opinion article in the Cincinnati Enquirer that looked at some of the issues with Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter. It looks at the issues and how Ken Ham conned Williamstown and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. But yes Ken Ham is a con man and the likes of him seem to be attracted to evangelicalism.
“The code of the con is to know just enough about everything so you can lie about anything.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1: 24-25 NLT
From the Smithsonian of Natural American History
This blog is deeply critical of all things related to Ken Ham. In my view Ken Ham is a huckster. He’s someone who manipulates people and a fraud. Evangelical Christianity seems to attract people like Ken Ham. In the community of Williamstown, Kentucky Ken Ham’s ark has not provided the economic stimulus or jobs that he has promised. In contrast it has affected and led to a downturn in small businesses in the community. Ken Ham is like P.T. Barnum expect Barnum was successful. Ham is a leach on evangelicalism and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Dave MacMillan wrote an opinion article in the Cincinnati Enquirer recently that looked at some of these issues. You can read it in its entirety in, “Ham fleeced a town that gave him his Ark Encounter.”
Award-winning independent documentary “We Believe In Dinosaurs” enjoyed its broadcast premiere on PBS’s Independent Lens last week. The film follows the construction of the Ark Encounter theme park, the subject of intense controversy due to state tax incentives, discriminatory hiring practices, and its depiction of discredited pseudoscience as a legitimate alternative to evidence-based science education.
As a former Kentucky creationist turned science advocate, I’m honored to be one of the voices in the film critical of the Ark Encounter. I’ve written at length about my past with Answers in Genesis and about the struggle of leaving science denial. My criticisms of the young-earth creationist movement, most recently in a Christian Post interview, have earned the ire of Ark Encounter CEO and evangelical provocateur Ken Ham. In a Feb. 19 opinion in The Enquirer, Ham reacted harshly to the PBS premiere, calling it “an agenda-driven propaganda piece” and claiming the directors had misrepresented their intentions.
Among other storylines, the film follows the relationship between the Ark Encounter and the city of Williamstown in Northern Kentucky, where the Ark is located. Buoyed by promises from Ham and others that the “biblical theme park” would bring a flood of tourism and prosperity, the city voted to sell the Ark 100 acres of land for $1, while also giving them hundreds of thousands in cash. The city also issued Ham’s company $62 million in unsecured bonds and arranged for them to be repaid via diversion of tax revenue. The film shows that the promised prosperity never materialized, with Williamstown businesses shuttering.
Ham’s opinion piece criticizes the film’s coverage of Williamstown, arguing filmmaker Clayton Brown used “clever camera angles” to give the impression that the theme park hasn’t helped the town. Yet, in a striking turn, Ham admits the promised benefits never materialized.
“We would be thrilled to see a major economic impact for the town, but…that town’s central business area is on the opposite side of the interstate from the Ark Encounter, half a mile from that interstate, and currently has no major hotels or restaurants.”
In other words, it’s Williamstown’s own fault that they’re not benefiting from the Ark. If they had given Ham land closer to downtown, instead of a whole half-mile away, perhaps things would be better. To hear Ken Ham tell it, they were fools to ever trust him.
Ham’s claim is not only insulting, but disingenuous. Far from actively supporting the community that opened its coffers to his organization, Ham has repeatedly acted to enrich the park at the town’s expense. Although the Ark Encounter is incorporated as a for-profit LLC in order to take advantage of tourism tax incentives, Ham has claimed that the non-profit status of the parent company should excuse them from paying city taxes that support firefighting and other essential services.
When businesses have opened in the small town, Ham has moved against them as well. In October of 2016, he posted a video about his visit to Shem’s Snack Shack, a small family restaurant that opened outside the Ark property. Within eight months, however, the location had been shuttered, the business moved inside the Ark Encounter park to supplement its outdoor concessions.
As a science advocate, I take strong issue with the nonscience Ham peddles to families and students. His parody of the scientific method does real harm, bleeding inexorably into education and public policy. The wholehearted embrace of “alternative facts” and the rejection of plain evidence are making our society more and more polarized. Yet Ham’s treatment of Williamstown is a reminder that these sorts of cult-like organizations have impacts that go much farther than the foolish ideas they promote.
David MacMillan is a freelance writer, paralegal, and law student in Washington, D.C., who is featured in the 2019 independent documentary “We Believe In Dinosaurs.”