By Kami Klein
On July 6th, with thousands of guests and media in attendance, the impressive ‘Ark Encounter’ opened its massive doors and another historic vision of Ken Ham, founder, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis (AIG) came to life. The first of the AIG projects, the Creation Museum, a state-of-the-art 75,000-square-foot museum that brings the pages of the Bible to life, was opened in 2007 and has seen more than 2.5 million visitors.
In a press conference, Ham addressed the crowd and spoke to the importance of a family-oriented, historically authentic and environmentally friendly attraction.
“In a world that is becoming increasingly secularized and biased, it’s time for Christians to do something of this size and this magnitude,’ said Ham.
The Ark Encounter is America’s newest, large theme park, and the one of a kind, life size, 510 foot-long Noah’s Ark is the centerpiece and considered to be the largest free-standing timber-frame building in the world. This Ark was build to full scale on the dimensions provided in the Bible. (Genesis 6) using the Hebrew long cubit (cubit- an ancient measurement of length based on distance from the elbow to the fingertips) and in accordance with sound, established nautical, engineering practices of the ancient era.
To give you an idea of the size of this structure, NASA could lay 3 space shuttles nose to tail on the ark’s roof and the height is taller than a modern four story building.
The ark has opened to much praise, but also has it’s critics saying that the attraction will be detrimental to science education. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, (FRFF) concerned about school field trips to the exhibit, say that ark field trips would expose children to religious proselytizing in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Ham noted at the opening press conference that with the Ark Encounter, “the research indicates a large percentage – maybe 40 percent or more – will be non-Christians. People from all over the world have heard of Noah’s Ark.” Ham added, “I believe you’re going to find all sorts of people from all walks of life with all sorts of religious backgrounds who are going to come here. And even if they don’t share our biblical view, they can’t help but be impressed by the structure, craftsmanship and by the attention to detail of the world-class exhibits inside. And who knows? Maybe they’ll be challenged to even talk about the Bible.”
In his blog, Ken Ham responded to the “bullying” tactics of the FRFF on schools. He was speaking to a published press release by the FFRF that stated they would be advising public schools in more than 1000 school districts against visiting the theme park and remind them of their constitutional obligations.
Ham responded, “Actually, FFRF is undermining or encouraging the violation of the First Amendment by bullying school districts with this threat. (Their usual threatening technique is to try to intimidate people to do what FFRF wants—not what the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees!)
On the basis of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, public schools are absolutely free to take students on field trips (with appropriate parental permissions) to facilities like the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, provided they are for historical, recreational, or educational purposes. FFRF has no right (and no legal basis whatsoever) to intimidate public schools as they are trying to do in this letter sent to more than 1,000 schools.”
The Center for Religious Expression also spoke directly with Ham stating:
“Once again, FFRF is wrong. Public schools are free to take students on field trips to any place they find educationally beneficial, which can include parks, museums, and even churches, that have religious connotations. The Constitution demands the state be neutral—not hostile—toward religion. To deny students the unique opportunity to see and experience a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark—just because its existence is described in the Bible—would be decidedly hostile.”
In response to the FFRF letter that has been sent to school districts, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a message to school districts Monday saying that “neither outside groups nor state education officials should dictate field trip selection. A school’s site-based decision-making council approves trips.”
The Ark Encounter is an immersive, historically themed experience for the whole family focused on having fun while learning about history. It is not an amusement park. It features a number of daily live performances, as well as live special events. It also includes “edu-tainment” aspects – educational and entertaining experiences – within each attraction. More than 125,000 square feet of world-class exhibits can be explored along the Ark’s three decks.