Ken Ham blames secularists for financial failures of the Ark Park

This story about two weeks old, but has been revived and supplemented by recent articles at Alternet The Raw Story, and The Friendly AtheistThe Ark Park (or rather “The Ark Experience”) apparently, isn’t the great success it was touted to be by Ken Ham and his organization Answers in Genesis. On the Answers in Genesis website. the Hamster admitted, in a piece called “The secularist media war against the Ark continues” (June 13), that the expected boosting of the local economy didn’t occur:

Recently, a number of articles in the mainstream media, on blogs, and on well-known secularist group websites have attempted to spread propaganda to brainwash the public into thinking our Ark Encounter attraction is a dismal failure. Sadly, they are influencing business investors and others in such a negative way that they may prevent Grant County, Kentucky, from achieving the economic recovery that its officials and residents have been seeking.

To be fair, one article in a local newspaper did get some its facts wrong, reporting, for instance, that a local restaurant closed down for lack of business when, in fact, its sewer pipes were being replaced. But the fact remains, as Alternet notes, the injection of dollars into Grant County, Kentucky businesses has failed to materialize.

“The ‘fake news’ angle used by Ham doesn’t exactly hold water. As Patheos notes, while one recent article did err on two small points related to the Ark Encounter, local business owners haven’t challenged accounts that their profit margins haven’t been raised by Ham’s project,” Alternet reported. “Estimates for the park’s annual draw were between 1.4 and 2.2 million visitors annually. Now approaching the one-year anniversary of its grand opening, park co-founder Mike Zovath said visitor tallies will hit 1 million as of July. But that figure can’t be confirmed by outside sources.”

Despite Ham’s claims, local leaders are adamant that the taxpayer subsidies are not trickling down to the taxpayers.

“I think the Ark’s done well [laughter] and I’m glad for them on that,” Grant County Judge Executive Steve Wood told WKYT. “But it’s not done us good at all.”

See more about the financial woes of the area in a piece in the May 24th Washington Post.

There have been reports of the Ark Park’s giant parking lot being largely empty on weekends, and that’s not really a surprise to me. By all accounts the Ark, which is already showing physical wear (how did the original survive all that flooding?), isn’t that exciting: a walk-through of a replica interior filled with cheesy animals (including, of course, dinosaurs), accompanied by animal sounds from loudspeakers. How many people want to pay $40 for an adult ticket and $28 bucks for each kid to see that? At least the Creation Museum has a variety of diverse lies to hold the believer’s attention.

It’s worth noting three things. First, in what seems to me a blatant violation of the First Amendment, the Park was financed largely by taxpayers. As The Daily Kos reported in 2014:

Besides the 510-foor replica of Noah’s Ark, the Ark Encounter project is unique in that it has received: “preliminary approval for $18 million in state tax incentives to offset the cost of the park’s construction; a 75 percent property tax break over 30 years from the City of Williamstown (a town of about 3,000 near where the park will be located); an $11-million road upgrade in a rural area that would almost exclusively facilitate traffic going to and from the park; a $200,000 gift from the Grant County Industrial Development Authority to make sure the project stays in that county; 100 acres of reduced-price land and, finally $62 million municipal bond issue from Williamstown that Ham claims has kept the project from sinking,” Simon Brown reported in the October issue of Church & State, a publication of the Washington, D.C. –based American United for the Separation of Church and State. [JAC: Ham claims that the city isn’t responsible for backing the bonds; Answers in Genesis is. Even if that’s the case, though, the other tax breaks still stand.]

According to Brown, “the bonds received junk status, which is the lowest possible rating for an investment. … [making] it highly unlikely that anyone who buys them will actually get money back.” Although the bonds “initially sold poorly,” Ham announced earlier this year that “the bond offering had succeeded.”

Hemant adds this:

Grant County (which Williamstown is in) gave Ham’s team 98 acres of land for $1. (That’s not a typo. Just a single dollar.)

Second, though Ham promised that the Park would create at least 900 jobs (3000 if you include the whole region), those jobs with the Ark Park itself—and I don’t know how many actually materialized—require that employees “confirm agreement with Ark Encounter’s Statement of Faith“. As Slate reported, the Statement of Faith is onerous:

AiG’s statement of faith is no mere loyalty oath: It’s a four-part theological declaration mandating that all signatories accept dozens of fundamentalist Christian principles. Employees at Ark Encounter don’t just have to believe in God; they have to believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan (as “the personal spiritual adversary of both God and mankind”), Adam and Eve, “the Great Flood of Genesis,” a 6,000-year-old Earth, and the eternal damnation of “those who do not believe in Christ.” All employees must follow “the duty of Christians” and attend “a local Bible believing church.” Just for good measure, employees must oppose abortion, euthanasia, gay rights, and trans rights.

Yes, those are the jobs created in part by taxpayers, and the employees have to swear that they oppose things that are legal in Kentucky. I suppose the oath itself is legal, but I doubt that government financing of the Ark Park is.

Finally, who’s to blame? I would have expected Ham to say “Satan,” but it’s the secularists—which I suppose is the same thing. As the Answers in Genesis website notes:

Why so many lies and misinformation? Simply because we are in a spiritual battle, and the intolerant secularists are so upset with such world-class attraction like the Ark (and Creation Museum) that publicly proclaim a Christian message. They will resort to whatever tactics they deem necessary to try to malign the attractions.

What we’re really intolerant of is that both the Creation Museum and the “Ark Experience” (the real name of the Ark Park) are purveying lies to people, miseducating children and bringing in the bucks while doing so. They can proclaim their Christian message (also largely lies) as much as they want, but when they start teaching kids a completely wrongheaded view of history, both human and evolutionary, then my knickers really get twisted. We don’t need financial information to malign the Ark Park. Even if it were a success, as I gather the Creation Museum is, I’d still find the whole exercise reprehensible—an exercise in harmful religious propaganda. Only Ham’s own delusions keep him from seeing how harmful he’s been to science education.

I’m curious, though, why, if God is omnipotent, he didn’t make The Ark Experience a big success.


  1. DrBeydon
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    In these days of political activism, it’s nice to know that one can have a positive impact sitting on one’s own front porch. Ham should consider that there are also plenty of Christians for whom his biblical literalism is off-putting. I’d like to think that we secularists are to blame, though.

  2. Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    In regard to your last paragraph, I just don’t get when it is God’s will and when its some other causative factor. Isn’t the failure of the Park just part of God’s plan? Why can’t he accept that platitude? After all, when an infant dies from cancer, Cretins like Ham always offer that its God’s will and the child is in a better place.

    • Ullrich Fischer
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Good point. God also created atheists (per Ham’s beliefs) so we’re part of the plan too. The Lord, after all, works in mysterious ways. 🙂

  3. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Ken’s right! We should drop everything and visit his park at least once a week so that all his lying for Jesus is not in vain. 🙂

  4. David Duncan
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    “…a walk-through of a replica interior filled with cheesy animals (including, of course, dinosaurs)…”

    Dinos? What were they doing in the ark? I thought the flood was designed to get rid of them.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      No, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have been able to ride the dinosaurs. Not sure who killed them off. Maybe the Albigensians.

  5. Jimbo
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    🎶Owner of a lonely ark,
    Owner of a broken ark🎶

  6. mfdempsey1946
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    It’s worth noting that P.Z. Myers’ account of his recent visit to the Ham Scam is extremely detailed about this boondoggle.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Excellent! Here’s my favorite line from his review (about the piped-in animal noises): “I guess it’s setting the mood, which, if that mood is supposed to be one of bored exasperation, they succeed at very well.”

      And, this reminds me to once again post the classic John Scalzi review of the creation “museum”.

      • Andy
        Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Yes, two really excellent links there! I definitely recommend John’s blog.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        Do they have the piped-in animal smells too? Or did someone mercifully decide that was a piece of realism they could do without.


        • Mark Joseph
          Posted June 25, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

          As best I understand it, the whole place is full of shit 😉

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    That secularists are being rewarded with the failure of the Ark Park is the first evidence I’ve seen that a just and benevolent god presides over the universe. It’s doubled my Bayesian posteriors on the proposition (to .000…0002).

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      What? Secularists’ tweets and blog posts are overpowering the prayers of Ken “I am Ham, Ham I am” and his coreligionists? Hallelujah!

      I love the smell of iron chariots in the morning…

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        OK, I know it’s super-tacky for me to respond to my own post, but then again, no one ever really accused me of *not* being super-tacky!

        If I haven’t messed up the link, and if you don’t need to sign in to see it, here’s a great meme for the Hamster.

        Or, as commentators here and elsewhere have often mentioned, nothing fails like prayer”.

  8. Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Build it, they won’t come.

    Okay, maybe some for the zip line.

  9. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “Ark Experience” (the real name of the Ark Park)

    Actually the real name is “Ark Encounter”.

    Regarding the tax breaks, my understanding is that such incentives and subsidies are available to any tourist-oriented business, and it would be a First Amendment violation to specifically exclude the Ark because of its religious theme.

  10. docbill1351
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Nobody with half a brain was under any illusion that this building-looks-like-a-boat, dreadfully boring diorama sitting in a parking lot in Kentucky would attract 1 million visitors per year, much less ANY repeat visitors. Well, nobody except the religion soaked government of Kentucky desperate to pander to their slack-jawed electorate.

    It’s a very sad commentary on our times that elected officials would not only fall for Ham’s carnival barker schtick, but actually fawn over him. Grant County’s Steve Wood laughs that Ken pulled the wool over their eyes, hardy-har-har, that Hambo is a wily little scamp!

  11. W.Benson
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Headline: “Ham fleeces his flock”.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      How can you tell when you’ve been thoroughly brainwashed? When you’re called a sheep, and you’re proud of that, instead of offended.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Ham searches for the Golden Fleece. He needs it if he is going to survive this.

  12. Posted June 25, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Excellent post and comments!

    If Ham is right, then all opinion polls showing that atheists in the USA have an approval rate slightly below that of Muslims are wrong. Actually, American atheists are becoming a trendy and powerful group. I’d advise candidates of both parties to proclaim atheism to make themselves electable.

  13. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    It’s the curse of Ham.

    • Posted June 25, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! To be named Ham of all names and to try to make money of Noah’s myth! As a Morrison’s character explained, do not go into medicine if your surname is Dead.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 25, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Indeed! With those kooky Hamites, I can’t but wonder what might be going on around the Ark Park after hours — perhaps re-enacting Ham’s sin; perhaps they’ve turned it into a Passion Play or something. Familial debauchery, drunkenness, who knows.

  14. Matt
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Empty parking lot is a good metaphor.

    Did you see the movie “Field of Delusions”? Great line: “If you build it they won’t come.”

  15. Tom
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that just we secularists are being blamed?
    What about the Hindus, Seikhs,Buddhists etc?
    I feel like a martyr.
    Seriously, if in a suppose christian country whose business IS supposed to be business Mr Ham can still fail to make a fantastic fortune there must be something wrong with the product.
    Perhaps he should take up touring with a revivalist tent and a megaphone.

  16. Mark R.
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Kentucky ranks 47th in overall poverty and 48th in food security.

    Dear Kentucky,

    Please start focusing on the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of your people. Your ark doesn’t do anything to alleviate the real problems facing your state.

    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Indeed. I’m all for donations of land to help people get started, but for this??

      (Disclosure: I partially exist as I am now because of such a program – Canada’s Veterans’ Land Act, which sold 2.5 acres to my grandfather for something like $60, which was cheap even in 1949.)

  17. Kevin
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    It’s not secularism it’s nature. The real creation destroyed the creation myth.

    Time is moving on for those who have no time left for the wrong story .

  18. Posted June 25, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Ham will never see the light. But the reality is that for this to be anywhere near the success he claimed, they will have to be an attraction to a broad range of Christians, not just fundamentalists, and they have to have attractions that bring in repeat visits.
    This thing is gonna lose interest, based on what I had seen of it.
    I remember plans for roller coasters and zip lines. Has that come to pass? Music concerts and other acts would would also be helpful.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Music concerts? I see a problem there in that most would regard ‘Christian music’ as an oxymoron.


  19. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Regarding those employment conditions, maybe Ken saw Pass The Ammo and recalled the character of Stonewall – to quote Wikipedia:
    ‘the Christian network’s producer, a drug-addled electronics wizard named Stonewall who decorates his workspace with Pink Floyd posters, but was hired by the network because “he has found the Lord…he told us so himself.”‘

    Cool guy.

    (Good movie. Tim Curry in classic cheesy over-the-top form as the Reverend Ray Parker.)

  20. Posted June 25, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the piece yet, but that seems like something we should be credited with rather than blamed if we were responsible.

  21. Rod
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Somewhat tangential, but relevant…. I saw something recently, don’t remember where, that ALL tourist bookings are off this year, especially foreign visitors, because of you-know-who. This has been noticed in places that attract foreigners such as Las Vegas and the Disney parks, but also “internal” attractions. Pretty sure no foreigners put Ark Park on their bucket list, but who knows?


    • Posted June 26, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Maybe some followers of Adnan Oktar/Harun Yahya, in another moment of creationist syncretism. On the other hand, they *are* “mooslims”, so maybe the Trump will keep them out.

  22. C. Morano
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I would love to take credit, uh, I mean, take the blame.

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