It’s been a frustrating month for Ken Ham, the Australian-born biblical-literalist and god-botherer who wants to build a giant monument to ignorance in the form of a scale-sized model of Noah’s ark. The frustration he’s feeling is borne of the nervousness felt by the charlatan whose complete lack of human decency is being exposed in detail by people who ask good questions. In Ham’s case, the probing questions were asked by journalist Lindsay Tucker, who published an excellent expose in Newsweek detailing how the Ark Encounter lost $18 million in tax incentives due to the park’s discriminatory hiring policies.
I’ll let Lindsay Tucker explain:
Why did the state reject an application nearly identical to one it initially approved? Because AiG posted Ark Encounter job listings on its website requiring a “salvation testimony” and a creationist statement of faith. Bob Stewart, then-secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, wrote in a letter to AiG: “The Commonwealth doesn’t believe that Ark Encounter, LLC will be complying with state and Federal law in its hiring practices.”
The Commonwealth is correct. Businesses and companies that do not function as a church and which require its employees to provide tax information are required by Federal law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to adhere to a number of clearly-defined standards. Requiring prospective or current employees to pledge devotion to a certain religion is, of course, an explicit violation of the standard relating to religious discrimination. One’s personal religious belief or lack thereof is just that – personal. It is unconstitutional for employers to turn religion into a hiring criterion.
This is especially the case if, like Ken Ham, the employer (or prospective employer) is working with a state-hired contractor to turn taxpayer dollars into an ambitious amusement park. The state of Kentucky has been amply accommodating to Ken Ham, allowing him plenty of opportunities to voluntarily change his discriminatory hiring policy. But Ken Ham has refused to budge. This is why his organization, Answers in Genesis (AiG) has lost their contract.
Now comes the part in Tucker’s article that should make your irony meter blow:
After months of pleading with the tourism cabinet, AiG filed a lawsuit against Kentucky officials, asserting that the refusal to extend tax aid was a form of religious discrimination.
In other words, Ken Ham thinks he’s the victim of religious discrimination when the state refuses to support his own religious discrimination of the taxpayers whose money he depends on.
“Would You Like Some Whine with that Ham?”
Ken Ham threw another tantrum when he read the Newsweek article exposing his hypocrisy. He begins his lengthy and petulant rant, which was posted on AnswersinGenesis.org shortly after the Newsweek piece appeared, by suggesting that Lindsay Tucker is not a real reporter, but only a “commentator.” But that’s just the tip of the pedantic iceberg. Ham goes on to say:
Some of what she writes is just plain childish and silly, as she seems to be cutesy and also sensationalistic. For example, she mentioned “headless mammal replicas,” referring to some of the unfinished sculpted animals for the various exhibits that will go inside the Ark, and claimed that Noah’s Ark was home to “2,000 seasick animals”—how would she know they were “seasick”?
Only a literalist as strict and hidebound as Ken Ham could fail to apprehend that Tucker is simply being humorous. How should a reporter refer to animal sculptures that are missing a head in a way that will not offend the fragile sensibilities of Ken Ham? And is Tucker to be blamed for the fact that Ham is completely and utterly devoid of a sense of humor? No, she isn’t.
We go back to Tucker’s article, where we learn that Ham is projecting his own character traits when he calls Tucker’s reporting “childish and silly.” Here is Tucker’s description of meeting Ham for the first time:
Ham didn’t stand up when an assistant shuffled me into his office one Friday afternoon. He has railed against the media time and time again for, he says, falsely claiming that taxpayer money is going toward building the ark. When he speaks, he does so slowly, his words even and calculated. “No Kentucky taxpayer money is going to build the Ark Encounter,” he tells me. Several times.
When I read this and imagined in my mind’s eye Ham speaking in the slow and calculating manner described here, I also imagined small beads of sweat breaking almost imperceptibly out on his brow. This is because Ham is lying to the reporter’s face. And he knows it. The Newsweek piece did a great job of placing Ham on the defensive, and in his response he resorts to trying to mislead his own reading audience in order to maintain his dishonest narrative about the Ark Encounter’s tax dollars:
Well, here is what she is not telling you about the TIF [Tax Increment Financing] . . . First, let me say that perhaps the most frustrating thing to read on the Newsweek site (of the many problems we have with its commentary) relates to TIFs. It’s frustrating because TIF documents related to AiG are all public record and have already been covered in the press. Yet this young “Woodward and Bernstein” wannabe makes it sound as if we’re hiding the TIF aspects and she has found her “gotcha” moment. Now, we simply don’t mention the TIF to reporters because perhaps 1 in 1,000 readers would even know what it is, it is highly complicated, and I don’t understand it all myself.
Again with the ad hominem disparagement of Tucker’s profession! It’s funny that Ham accuses Tucker of withholding information about what the Tax Increment Financing program means for taxpayers. Ham is the one who has been very careful not to inform the public that through the TIF program, the Ark Encounter is the beneficiary of a $62 million bond paid by the City of Williamstown, Kentucky. That’s the real reason Ham’s organization doesn’t mention the TIF to reporters. The last thing AiG wants is for the public to know how it works. The problem is not that they can’t explain it to reporters. The problem is that they won’t explain it. As part of the TIF fine-print agreement, 75 percent of the Ark Encounter’s real estate taxes will go toward repaying that bond over a 30 year-period. That’s a very significant amount of taxpayer money being diverted away from state infrastructure, schools, and a failing healthcare system to fund a bloated theme park celebrating a genocidal fable.
Readers interested in following this developing story should follow Dan Arel’s blog Danthropology. Arel, a freelance columnist and author, has covered the Ark Encounter fiasco extensively and has been on the front lines of the church-state separation fight in the state of Kentucky.