COMMENTARY | It looks like Kentucky is getting an ark. On the list of things that Kentucky may need, I’m willing to venture a big wild guess that an ark is not among the top priorities.
Nonetheless, after a municipal bond offering to cover the estimated $73 million cost, Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark project is off and floating. You might recognize creationist Ham’s name from his “debate” with Bill Nye, scientist. That there could be such a debate in the 21st century is more than slightly depressing, but I digress.
There is no guile in this project. Like Ham’s “Creationist Museum,” he intends it to be a representation of Noah’s Ark. Not Noah’s Floating Zoo, as a non-religious friend once dubbed a toy I thought was fun for his son, buying it for all of those animals rather than for the story.
No, the idea is to build a life-sized ark complete with real and robotic animals and then tell people that what they’re looking at actually, literally happened. On the plus side, given the risk of flooding due to climate change, Ham will be one step ahead of us there, and can rescue animatronic animals two-by-two while he’s at it.
As much of a problem as I have with claiming that “beliefs” become “facts” if you just will them into being so, that is not my biggest issue with this project. My biggest issue is far more fundamental.
Municipal bonds were issued solely for the purpose of furthering religion. There is absolutely no other way to look at this form of funding.
It is difficult to imagine a way in which this project doesn’t vehemently, utterly violate the First Amendment. While the Associated Press reports that the bonds themselves deny any state liability for default, that’s really not the way that bonds work.
Are taxpayers actually footing the bill for a big monument to Ham’s particular flavor of religion? And forget that specificity, a monument to religion, period? At possibly $62 million, according to the Associated Press?
Now that doesn’t sound quite right.
This situation goes beyond religious creep to full-on religious flag-planting. Would the Flying Spaghetti Monster Noodley Experience receive a government bond offering? How about a Wiccan Institute of White Magic? I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.
Ken Ham may be building an ark with the help of the city of Williamstown, but the flood he’s going to get is probably not the one he’s expecting.