Ark Encounter entrepreneur and fundamentalist Christian evangelist Ken Ham may have just bet the farm.
He has announced that the $28 children's admission price to his biblical Noah's ark theme park (dinosaurs included!) will be slashed to $1 for any public school student. He will also waive the $40 adult rate for accompanying teachers.
Ham's latest salvo seems to be in direct response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's caveat, in a mass mailing to more than 1,000 school districts in Kentucky and nearby states, about the Ark Encounter. FFRF contacted public schools to warn that they should not be organizing trips for students to either Ham's Creationist Museum or the new ark park. Ham has fired off roughly a dozen tweets and penned a blog to denounce the organization. None of them cited a single case law.
FFRF noted in its memo that Ham has plainly stated in a recent letter his motivation for building the ark park. "Our motive is to do the King's business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith, so that we can reach as many souls as we can," he wrote. Public schools and their administrators have a statutory obligation to protect a captive audience of students from proselytizing hucksters seeking to take advantage of youthful credulity.
Ham's latest move underscores FFRF's message in its letter yesterday to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt, expressing disappointment with his lackluster memo to Kentucky schools. Pruitt claimed the Kentucky Department of Education isn't responsible for approving specific field trip selections. FFRF reminded Pruitt of a statutory duty to ensure that Kentucky schools and employees abide by all laws.
Ham had previously taken to social media, saying "The [FFRF] have [sic] no right to tell schools what excursions they can and can't do thus violating 1st amendment—that's the schools [sic] decision" and that "public schools can visit [Ark Encounter] for historical/education/recreational reason [sic]."
The ark has been rightly termed a "monument to stupidity." The flood fable teaches both cruelty (creating, then drowning most of the world's inhabitants in a fit of pique) and misinformation. But the absurd tale has been gift-wrapped as a lure for children enticed by the animals.
"Taking public school students to an ark park would be as unconstitutional as taking them to church on a Sunday morning," says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. "In some ways, it is worse because the constitutional issues are compounded by the anti-science, anti-history indoctrination Ham is imposing on visitors."
FFRF will be closely monitoring public schools that are in cahoots with Ham's special brand of snake oil. Our public school children should not be exposed to his fakery.