The Hambo Constitutional Challenge

This is so strange that we have to defend Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else. Hambo is famed not only for the infamous, mind-boggling Creation Museum, but also for building an exact replica of Noah’s Ark known as Ark Encounter.

Why are we defending Hambo? There are some among our readers who regard him as a shameless charlatan, but we disagree, and after reading what we have to say here, perhaps you’ll see our point. Specifically, Hambo is so wrong this time that he can’t possibly be aware of it and post what he has posted. That’s why we think he’s sincere.

He just posted FFRF Threatens Public Schools Over Visits to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), his creationist ministry. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

I’m laying down the gauntlet with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. [Ooooooooooooh!] Once again (as they did in 2016), the FFRF has blanketed public schools within driving distance of the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum with threatening letters to bully schools not to bring students to either attraction. FFRF claims that a public school group that visits our attractions would supposedly violate the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

See what we mean? There is nothing more biblical than Hambo’s creationist tourist attractions, and anyone with even a casual familiarity with the US Constitution would immediately understand that governnment funds can’t be spent to support such activities. And it’s not just the federal Constitution. The Constitution Of The Commonwealth Of Kentucky is quite explicit. Section 5 of the Bill of Rights, on page 7, says:

Section 5. Right of religious freedom. No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious sect, society or denomination; nor to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion; nor shall any man be compelled to send his child to any school to which he may be conscientiously opposed; and the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching. No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

And Section 189 on page 35 says:

Section 189. School money not to be used for church, sectarian, or denominational school. No portion of any fund or tax now existing, or that may hereafter be raised or levied for educational purposes, shall be appropriated to, or used by, or in aid of, any church, sectarian or denominational school.

That seems clear. But not to Hambo. He says:

In a letter sent out to over 1,000 school districts in five states, FFRF wrote:

[Hambo quotes the letter:] Public schools and public school staff may not constitutionally organize trips to the Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum or any other religious venue. … We are writing again because, unfortunately, Ken Ham, the evangelist who built these two notorious theme parks, continues to encourage public schools to plan field trips to visit the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. … Though Ham asserts that the law is on his side, this is untrue. Unquestionably, any field trip facilitated by a public school to either attraction would be unconstitutional. … In short, it is unacceptable to expose a captive audience of impressionable students to the overtly religious atmosphere of Ham’s Christian theme parks.

That also seems clear. But Hambo doesn’t get it. He tells us:

As leading civil rights attorneys will tell you, if classes tour the Ark or museum in an objective fashion to supplement the teaching of world religions, literature, interpretation of history, etc., the field trip is an educational experience. Now, if students were brought to the Ark or museum and told by their teacher that the religious content should be accepted as truth, then we would acknowledge that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, as currently being interpreted by the courts, would be violated.

We don’t know who those “leading civil rights attorneys” are, but how in the world can a visit to Hambo’s ark be an objective educational experience? Perhaps for a carpentry class, but that’s all we can think of. Oh, wait — he quotes what he says is from one of his attorneys:

If public schools were bringing students to the Ark and museum and declaring, ‘THIS interpretation is the only real truth that you should personally accept,’ then that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.

If classes are coming to the museum or Ark in an objective fashion, however, to show students world-class exhibits and one group’s interpretation of the origin of man and earth history, then the field trip is just fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational and cultural experience.

In a survey of world religions, their beliefs can be summarized with clinical neutrality in a textbook — without the time and expense of a field trip to Hambo’s one-sided fantasy exhibits. Anyway, here comes the Hambo challenge:

I want to offer admission free of charge [Gasp!] to all those public schools who received the FFRF letter — and to any other public school in America — that want to bring their students to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum as an official school trip (as per how the First Amendment attorney described it above). And if the FFRF dares threaten or bully a public school, we have access to expert constitutional law attorneys who will provide their services to the school, pro bono, even if that means going all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Brave words. And now we come to the end:

Actually, I would like to see a case go to the Supreme Court so that these atheist bullies who have been wreaking havoc on civil liberties all across America can be stopped. … Any public school official can contact Answers in Genesis to book your official public school outing to either the Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum, or both. I trust there will be some school leaders bold enough to stand up to this latest FFRF bullying attempt.

Okay, there it is — the Hambo Challenge. We think he’s sincere, but what public school principal will be foolhardy enough to contact Hambo and sign the kiddies up for a nice “secular” tour of the ark and the Creation Museum? We shall see.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “The Hambo Constitutional Challenge

  1. I see no reason to believe that he is being sincere, and my faith in his sincerity evaporated when he described the differences between Septuagint and Masoretic as minor and easily reconciled. Not credible from someone with a special interest in biblical chronology. But remember, in any case, he is risking absolutely nothing. It would not be the Ark Encounter that was sued, but the moronically mismanaged school district that walked into his publicity stunt trap.

  2. Michael Fugate

    It would seem to me if a school district makes a trip to the AiG venues, then they should be required to visit sites proselytizing/promoting other religions and they should be required to visit a real natural history museum.

  3. Paul Braterman says: “I see no reason to believe that he is being sincere … he is risking absolutely nothing.”

    That’s true, but I really think he’s incapable of grasping that we don’t live in a theocracy.

  4. Another case of “let the kiddies decide”. Surely, the tour guide is going to help them making the right decision.

  5. Theodore Lawry

    For more on Ham’s thinking about religious freedom see this

  6. “…one group’s interpretation of the origin of man and earth history…”

    As a test of his sincerity– and a mark of general good faith– Ken should be lobbying for public schools to visit Church of Scientology institutions; expose them to the joys of Sea Org; introduce the kids to the wonders of yet another of the world’s manifold explanations for how we all came to be.

    Meanwhile, back on Planet Reality…

  7. I almost forgot to mention it: Blue Grass brought this one to my attention.

  8. Ken seems to have forgotten that we kicked his masters out of here a couple hundred years ago.

    When Ken actually becomes a US Citizen, then he can spout commentary about our Constitution. Since he is not, this American will gladly tell him to STFU.

  9. “That’s why we think he’s sincere.”
    OK, this screams for a Godwin. In the course of 1939 Hitler ordered the “reporters” of the Völkische Beobachter to write about German girls in Poland being raped by Polish men. When a bit later Hitler would read this made up stuff he would become so terribly angry that it’s impossible to fake – he obviously believed these lies. Does that mean he was sincere?
    The same principle, I predict, applies to Ol’Hambo. When you discard rationality like this the question of sincerity becomes a meaningless one. Further evidence for my viewpoint:

    “in an objective fashion”
    Anyone who can write this regarding the Creacrap Museum and the Gay Wooden Box Encounter and keep it dry is way beyond the point of no return and has travelled too far into a “dimension of the mind, a dimension that exists beyond the laws of nature, unknowable by evidence and reason.” In this “wondrous land of Oogity Boogity” you can be a sincere con man, squeeze money out of your clients and convince yourself you’ve offered them something highly useful. You can behave like the worst Pharisee (actually these folks were pretty respectable) and do everything Jesus despised and still believe you’re continuing this work. You can claim that you’re a very modest and humble men and bath in gold.
    His attorneys most likely are con men, but we all know that especially American lawyers defend everything and anything as long you pay enough.

  10. Charles Deetz ;)

    Religious exemptions for the Ark operation, yet ‘objectivity’ exemptions for his exhibits. The “I want it both ways” crap is stunning. I bet he feels Sundays are holy and businesses should be closed, except for churches which his Ark is. But the rest of the week its pretty secular, okay for public school students. Or some rationalization that would fry my brain.

  11. Public schools are leery of Ham’s organization and the distinct possibility of ensuing FFRF lawsuits. Likely there will be a few right leaning schools around the area that might get their feet wet. That’s when Ham’s piranhas will bite them.

  12. Dave Luckett

    It will happen if and when a complainant with standing – almost certainly a parent or group of parents – sues a school or school district that organises such a trip, claiming violation of their Constitutional rights. The language of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky seems to me to be even more specific and directive than that of the First Amendment. I speak under correction, but I think a suit brought on those provisions would be even more likely to succeed – a court would have to perform an astonishing series of contortions to evade them.

    I wonder if Ham himself, by the act of offering religious indoctrination specifically to public schools, could be held accessory to a violation of the State or Federal Constitution?

  13. Did he really offer free legal counsel all the way to the Supreme Court? Would he then also pay any fines imposed on the school if it loses? If so, then make my day, find a school and parents willing to try and sue.

  14. “… how in the world can a visit to Hambo’s ark be an objective educational experience?”

    The students could learn the fine art of using Gopher Steel and Gopher concrete in building an unseaworthy and totally unfloatable “boat” that only utter fools imagine could house 2 to 7 of each “kind” of living organism on Earth for an entire year at sea.

  15. Karl Goldsmith

    “That’s why we think he’s sincere.” Oooh sarcasm.

  16. As always, one will find the devil in the detail.

    expert constitutional law attorneys who will provide their services to the school, pro bono, even if that means going all the way to the US Supreme Court.

    Ham is an entrepreneur beset by falling attendances, and this is nothing more than a carefully managed marketing campaign. As with all marketing, costs are, as budgeted, and Ham will never be out of pocket. Note: he doesn’t offer to pay a school’s legal costs, but merely “services”.

    Crocodile tears. Nothing more, nothing less.

  17. @Tedinoz, well spotted. Ham will have done everything he promised even if all the pro bono lawyers do is spend five minutes describing court procedure

  18. I would be fine with Ark Encounter tours for public high school seniors enrolled in a course called “Does religious fundamentalism corrode the human capacity for rational thought?” But I’m not so sure that Ham would be as enthusiastic about offering free tours.

  19. Michael Fugate

    There are many like-minded law firms who take on these cases pro bono and it encourages much silliness. A southern California school board is wasting resources on defending their own proselytizing prayers and Bible readings at meetings. They want the case to go to the Supreme Court in hopes of furthering evangelical Christianity, not education. This is why local politics and elections are so important.

  20. I wonder if they would allow prayers to Allah, Baal, the FSM, and so forth?

  21. “I wonder if they would allow prayers to Allah, Baal, the FSM, and so forth?”

    Of course not, they only allow prayers to *real* gods, you know, the gods that they believe in!