Newsweek Story on Hambo’s Ark

This just showed up in Newsweek, the second-largest news weekly magazine in the US: Noah’s Ark Rises in Kentucky, Dinosaurs and All. You already know most of what they report, but you’ll appreciate their style. It’s likely to infuriate ol’ Hambo. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Imagine the Titanic minus the smokestacks, framed out of timber rather than iron. Imagine that instead of a doomed ocean liner bustling with well-dressed elites, it’s home to 2,000 seasick animals, a handful of teenage dinosaurs and one patriarchal family headed by a 500-year-old man bent on saving the world. Cultures all over the globe share the legend of Noah’s Ark, but this summer one especially enthusiastic Christian ministry will try to convince you that it looked exactly like this — dinosaurs and all—when it opens its biblical theme park. Its pièce de résistance is a 510-foot representation of Noah’s giant boat. (OK, the Titanic was bigger, but you get the idea.)

That’s not the way Hambo would describe it. Then Newsweek says:

The masterminds behind this monument to theological devotion are fundamentalist Christian organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) and its Australian-born president, Ken Ham. For the unfamiliar, Ham, AiG and their followers believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and disparage anyone who doesn’t. Dubbed the Young Earth Creationists, they maintain that the Earth and its universe were created 6,000 years ago in six days, as described in Scripture. And while they argue that their worldview deserves as much classroom time in public schools as science, for now they are focused on molding young minds through their oft-mocked Petersburg, Kentucky, Creation Museum and the forthcoming Ark Encounter theme park in nearby Williamstown.

Try to picture ol’ Hambo reading this article. Wonderful, isn’t it? Let’s read on:

Despite many competitive advantages, including buying a 99-acre parcel of land from the city for a mere dollar, the $101 million project has been plagued for five years by setbacks that include a lack of public support, unfruitful fundraising efforts and a bitter lawsuit over $18 million in tax incentives that the state withheld due to church-state separation concerns. But none of this has discouraged Ham, who says his ark could draw as many as 2 million visitors in its first year, although such projections are highly disputed.

Good journalism, huh? We’ll skip a lot so we can focus on the financing. You’re probably going to read it all for yourself anyway. This is interesting:

In order to incentivize building there, Williamstown declared the ark site and the surrounding 1.25 miles a tax increment financing (TIF) district, which is a fancy way of saying that over the next 30 years, 75 percent of sales and real estate taxes generated within the area will go back to fund Ark Encounter. There’s also an employment tax for workers in the district, but more on that shortly.

Wait ’til we get to the employment tax gimmick! Newsweek continues:

The money used to build Ark Encounter came from donations of almost $30 million, plus $62 million in high-risk, unrated municipal bonds backed by the project’s future revenues. If Ark Encounter never makes significant profits (and bond documents warn that it may not), neither the city nor AiG is on the hook for the bond money.

Sounds like a good deal! Okay, here’s the news about employment tax, which we didn’t know:

[A]ccording to Mike Zovath, chief actions officer for AiG and Ark Encounter, the millions in tax dollars that will be rebated through the formation of the aforementioned TIF district could go toward repaying the bonds and funding future attractions. What neither of them [Zovath and Hambo] mentioned in conversations with me or in their many blog posts on the subject is that, as part of the TIF agreement, employees working within the TIF district will be subject to a 2 percent employment tax on gross wages for the next 30 years. In other words, $2 out of every $100 earned by people working at or around the park will go directly to paying off the attraction. So while tax dollars might not actually have been used to build the ark, a boatload that would otherwise go back into the community will instead be used to pay off Ark Encounter’s debt.

Then there are a few paragraphs about Hambo’s litigation over sales tax rebates that the state won’t pay him. That’s old news to our regular readers, so we’ll quit here. The fun part will be when Hambo reacts to this. We’ll be watching for it.

Update: Hambo posted about the Newsweek article here: Newsweek or “News-Weak”?

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

22 responses to “Newsweek Story on Hambo’s Ark

  1. Isn’t there also a dust-up concerning the requirement that all park employees be Christian, something that is incompatible with use of tax dollars?

  2. Great article.

    The 1.25 mile radius tax zone is new to me also. I’ve never heard of such a thing. It will probably keep businesses of any sort from locating near the site, since it would be difficult to hire workers willing to take a 2% cut in take-home pay simply to work in that specific geographic location. I don’t see AiG making much from the deal.

  3. Ken Ham is building a religious institution; in a sense, a church. Have to believe someone’s going to challenge all the tax breaks and tax incentives.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    He’s being about as creative with paying for the boat as he is in how he thinks god would have filled it.

  5. SC: “Try to picture ol’ Hambo reading this article.”

    It’s much more fun to picture a Discoveroid reading it – as they stick pins in their Ken Ham voodoo doll. Don’t get me wrong, Discoveroids totally support the ark park – as long as it’s pitched to pre-committed young-earthers. But the last thing they want is for general audiences to see how absurd those young earth, ark, global flood claims are. Again, don’t get me wrong, the DI would be fine if everyone took a global flood “on faith” (and yes I’m recalling Dembski’s pathetic pandering to his seminary bosses in 2010), but they know that even the slightest critical analysis of the evidence for claims so absurd that a slight majority of self-described creationists rejects them is bad news for their big tent scam.

  6. Our Curmudgeon bids us

    Try to picture ol’ Hambo reading this article. Wonderful, isn’t it?

    I’m not so sure; I think Hambo may mostly be delighted by the article, on the grounds that Fundamentalists love nothing better than portraying themselves as the victims of ‘persecution’, which is why one hears so much tosh in the US about a ‘War on Christians’ or ‘War on Christmas’ or whatever.

    Mind you, the ’employment tax’ business would make an honourable man blush in shame–but Hambo does not meet that necessary precondition…

  7. ***Scours the kitchen for popcorn, reaches in the fridge for a cold beer***

  8. Holy dinosaur …. poop!

    Bought 99 acres from the city for a $1? TIF district? What a boatload of stink!

  9. Any Muslim employees to work at the theme park, hopefully with the women wearing a hajib?

  10. Megalonyx: “I’m not so sure; I think Hambo may mostly be delighted by the article, on the grounds that Fundamentalists love nothing better than portraying themselves as the victims of ‘persecution’…”

    That’s what I was thinking. Discoveroids like persecution too, but not when it undermines their “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” strategy. In my experience, when people who are not pre-committed to Biblical literalism, but still “susceptible” to it, give a few minutes’ thought to natural history, they overwhelmingly reject literal interpretations in favor of allegorical ones. But when the same group – as much as 70% of adult Americans – hears only bogus “weaknesses” of evolution, they overwhelmingly find them convincing, and often uncritically spread those misleading memes.

  11. Does the 1.5 mile radius start from the center of Hambo’s property or the perimeter?
    Imagine if you had a pre-existing business in that area. Now your employees make less, and if you work there you make less too!

  12. I’m wondering if Ham wants to draw attention to the article. After all, very few of his followers are likely to read Newsweek. He may choose to remain silent, and let it pass. If he chooses to rebut the article, his readers will learn of the accusations, and some may have second thoughts about supporting his ark park.

  13. The employment tax – It’s like tithing, only it’s twothing

  14. Bert Younger: Ark Encounter plans to require all applicants for employment to sign a “statement of faith.” I’m pretty sure that this statement is not “there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is His prophet.” Muslims would presumably not be hired.

    Shay: the above requirement caused the Ark Encounter to lose some sales tax exemptions Ken Ham had been looking forward to, since state law requires that any business taking such exemptions (offered to encourage them to set up shop in areas where there is little investment) not to restrict employment due to race, color, or — the relevant point here — creed. Ken Ham doesn’t see why his intent to back out on his side of this deal — non-discrimination in exchange for non-taxation — should entitle the state to back out on its side, and blames anti-religious discrimination.

    Rob: on the other hand, “the price of a thing is what the thing will bring.” I’ve seen no reports that anyone else was willing to pay, say, two dollars for the land. The state was collecting no taxes (property, sales, or other sorts) off the land. No matter how sweet the deal is from the standpoint of AiG/Crosswater Canyon/Ark Encounter, it’s hard to show that the state or the taxpayers would have received more in revenue from some alternate course of action.

  15. Nevertheless, the whole thing has the sweet smell of corruption. One wonders what arms were twisted and whose palms were greased to let this deal go through, especially given the sales and real estate tax deal, which potentially is worth millions to the Hamster.

  16. Hambo posted about the Newsweek article here: Newsweek or “News-Weak”?

  17. I was curious about the 2% tax on wages, so I looked through the rebuttal if there was any denial about that.
    I was impressed by how much work has been done on finances.
    If only someone would put as much work on petty details of the accounting for the variety of life.

  18. Hambo said his back pain is why he didn’t stand. Yet he can demo his organization’s zip lines:

  19. “Hambo posted about the Newsweek article here: Newsweek or “News-Weak”?”

    Creation Museum or “Creationist’s Musings”?

  20. I find it interesting that these Christians have a museum, a place named for the pagan goddesses, the Muses.