Monday, September 23, 2013

Josh Rosenau Updates Us on the "Ark-n-Park"

Josh Rosenau of the NCSE is writing to let us know how Ken Ham is continuing to prop up construction of the Ark Encounter (derisively called the "Ark-n-Park" by Barry Lynn).  He notes:
The project has already been promised a tourism-related state tax rebate and state road crews will widen the road leading to the park, but apparently the campaign to raise capital for construction has not been meeting expectations (neither has Creation Museum attendance, reportedly). So Ken Ham is looking for a new way to scare up money. He sent out an appeal to the Answers in Genesis mailing list offering people a chance to buy bonds to fund the park, bonds issued by the city of Williamstown, Kentucky.

This isn’t quite TARP, but the bonds will be a small government bailout for AiG, using the city’s borrowing power to cut the cost of loans to build the creationist theme park. That probably doesn’t violate the First Amendment, according to a church-state attorney I ran this past, though he observes, “Bond financing is quite complex, and the analysis can differ based on what precise type of bond financing we are talking about here.”
Ham, it seems, is selling bonds rather than going through the usual tax exemptions route because he claims that Obamacare will require any venture that takes public money to provide for "abortion-producing drugs" to be offered. Therefore, to avoid the pitfalls of federal funds, Ham is going the bond route.  This is a problem but not for the reasons that Ham thinks:
First, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t mandate coverage for abortion. Indeed, since 1979, Kentucky law has forbidden insurers from covering abortion without the purchase of a separate insurance rider. My guess is that Ham is referring to the law’s mandate that insurers cover contraception, and claiming that birth control is actually abortion. This is a fairly common argument advanced by the radical religious right, since by defining pregnancy to begin at the moment of fertilization, rather than at implantation, and they can claim that birth control pills (including Plan B) cause abortion (PDF) by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg. Federal law and the medical community see it differently, but being at odds with the science is nothing new for Ham.
Also, as Rosenau points out, selling municipal bonds is still entangling the donors or buyers in government just at a smaller scale and has very little to do with whether or not abortion is supported.  I suspect that he is right in that the whole ark project is tanking and Ham is just trying to raise money in a somewhat less traditional route.  It doesn't help that there has never been an approved feasibility study for the undertaking.  Here is to hoping that the thing is never built. 

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