Creationist Ham Using Tax Dollars To Enforce Christian Sharia
Ken Ham’s Creationist Fantasy Park Muddies The Line Between Church And State, Invites Sharia Law
Influential creationist Ken Ham is using taxpayer money to build a shrine to pseudoscience.
Cash-strapped Kentuckians can find work in a theme park—so long as they renounce homosexuals and pledge supreme allegiance to Jesus. What’s more, this park was made possible through government financial incentives. So who’s responsible for these first intimations of Christian Sharia law? Fabled Creationist and debate loser Ken Ham.
Fox13 quotes Ham as describing the so-called Ark Encounter project as “the most authentic recreation of Noah’s Ark in the world.” Alternatively, Disneyland for fundies would be just as accurate. According to the park’s website, the Ark Encounter pledges to answer such perplexing questions as how Noah cared for every animal in Creation, how a tiny, ragtag team of God’s Chosen built such a superstructure, and presumably, the point behind sheltering fish on a boat during a flood.
Behind the scenes, Ham has made an altogether different pledge, this to the government of Kentucky, where the park is due to open this July in Williamstown. This ambitious spectacle promises to bring hefty tourism to the area—2 million visitors annually by Ham’s measure, and when has he ever been wrong? And the Bluegrass State could certainly such an influx of cash—Kentucky is the fourth most impoverished state in the nation, according to Business Insider. As such, Gov. Matt Bevin is prepared to hand Ham $18 million in sales tax incentives for his Ark, with further tax breaks from both the city itself and Grant County. The Lexington Herald Leader reports that as much one quarter of the park’s investment will be recovered via state sales taxes reaped from the tourists themselves.
A Statement of Faith
Ken Ham’s new hires are mandated to believe in the literal interpretation of book of Genesis.
If this obvious overlapping of Church and State hasn’t gotten your blood boiling yet, hang on to your giant, goofy Derby hats: all employees are mandated to sign a “statement of faith,” as Fox13 puts it, “disavowing homosexuality, same-sex marriage and premarital sex… they must also believe in [the literal interpretation of] Genesis and Jesus Christ.”
Government financial assistance for an overtly religious project is already nebulous enough, but when that same state money allows the park to strong-arm employees into abstinence, a “disavowal” of an entire people based strictly on sexual preference, and most egregiously, the pledging of one’s faith to one deity above all others? Well, there is legal precedent for that, as it turns out—in Saudi Arabia, for example, or the Rome that fed Ham’s kind to the lions.
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Those overtones of an impending Christian Sharia have not gone unnoticed. In a heartening reminder that not every Christian is a extremist demagogue, Williamstown’s own Bob Fox, a Baptist minister, has been vocally critical of Ham’s Encounter. As Fox puts it:
“There’s kinds of laws called ‘Sharia,’ where people have used legislation and the government to promote a religious faith, and I think we as Christians need to be careful that we continue to be Christian, and to be Christian in the context of the United States.”
There’s the genuinely moral part of it, sure—that’s felt by plenty of Christians just as it’s felt by plenty of Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Atheists, certainly Secular Humanists, and hell, even many LaVeyan Satanists. That feeling is such: we do not crack the whip and force people to cower before someone else’s extremist dogma.
But ethical matters aside, one might suspect Bob Fox is at least decently versed in constitutional law, as he seems to acknowledge that the Founders rejected tyranny of any stripe–the tyranny of religion chief among them. Duly wary of the oppression inherent in any theocracy, the authors of our founding documents placed church well away from state. It’s why we’re guaranteed the freedom to believe whatever we please, but not one of us–above all, no one in government–has the right to impose those beliefs on others.
A Hypothetical Scenario
Ken Ham’s tourist attraction discriminates based on sexual orientation and religious belief.
So walk yourself through this purely hypothetical scenario: You’re the sort of Kentuckian Ken Ham does not seem to favor. Maybe you are simply of a different faith, or of no faith. Maybe you’re engaging in premarital relations, or–Heavens to Betsy!–maybe you are married, but to a person of your own gender. Money’s tight down in Williamstown, and you’ve been struggling for a while. At long last, the bigwig politicos in Frankfort greased the wheels of finance for a huge tourist attraction, and they’re hiring now. But you don’t meet Ken Ham’s exacting criteria. If you fail to renounce your supposedly devious ways and mark, in a binding document, that your beliefs are not in violation of his Christian Sharia, you’ll be shut out from this state-aided employment boon. In these United States. Based purely upon your creed.
Governor Bevin thinks of it in rosier terms, apparently. As Fox13 phrased it:
“He says his administration does not discriminate against any worthy economic project.”
Any persons deemed pure of soul are invited to apply for employment on the Ark Encounter’s website right here. For a more circuitous route to that same link, one can visit the site’s front page and scroll down until you see the words “Now Hiring.” Tellingly, the associated graphic invites applicants to “Be A Part Of History.” And that part of history you’ll wind up on when you apply? Chances are, it’s the wrong side of it.
Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images
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