Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham has said that reports from atheists and the secular media that the ministry's Noah's Ark-themed park is failing are not only entirely "false", they're proof that the exhibit is effective.
"The fact that we're getting such opposition from avowed atheists tells you that we're doing something right, because if we weren't doing something that was effective, they wouldn't oppose us," Ham told The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. "The sort of opposition they give, it's a feather in our cap to say we're doing something, we're being effective."
"In the long run, it's given us a lot of publicity," the popular speaker and author said, citing Genesis 50:20, which reads, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Ham was referring to reports from the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and more claiming that The Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Ky., which marks its first anniversary on July 7, has experienced low turnout and failed to help boost the economy of the surrounding local businesses.
"Attendance has exceeded our expectations," Ham told GH. "The original projection of the Ark Encounter - 1.1 million to 2.2 million in attendance - were in a normal years, and we haven't had a normal year yet. We won't have one until our second year. And, as we mark our first anniversary, we'll hit the low end of the estimated guest number, which is absolutely amazing for an abnormal year."
He added that based on current numbers, attendance is "bound to increase significantly" in the coming year: "We're getting thousands of people coming every day," he said.
The AiG president also addressed reports that Williamstown businesses haven't seen an expected boost in customers as a result of the park's opening, explaining that the problem lies in the fact that the town has no infrastructure.
"The secular media and many atheists have been spreading misinformation, which doesn't hurt us, but what it does do is hurt the town of Williamstown where it's built," he said. "There are no hotels or restaurants downtown, so the secular media sees no economic growth and blames the Ark. All of those are at Dry Ridge, which is five miles north, and Dry Ridge has been incredibly impacted. What needs to happen is, Williamstown needs to get some infrastructure."
In reality, the Ark Encounter has "had a tremendous impact on northern Kentucky" and created hundreds of jobs, Ham said.
"We employ a number of people at both the Creation Museum and at the Ark Encounter, and that's created lots of jobs in the community," he said.
The 800-acre theme park includes an ark built to the measurements God gave Noah in the biblical flood account found in Genesis. Its exhibits put forth a "Young Earth Creationist" interpretation of Scripture that maintains the Earth is about 6,000 years old that the Biblical account of the flood is literally true.
Ham said that ultimately, atheist groups and the secular media intentionally spread "misinformation" and "poorly-researched reports" regarding the exhibit because they "oppose the Christian message" and are "intolerant of Christianity."
"Atheists have harassed us for years because they are intolerant of Christian beliefs," Ham contended. "They started harassing us as soon as we moved to this area, as soon as we opened the Creation Museum. When we opened the Ark Encounter, the local atheist group had a demonstration outside and protested our opening. They'll make out it has to do with tax incentives and the rest of it - it is not."
Ham pointed out that there are hundreds of secular museums in America and all around the world that promote the theory of evolution - yet atheists are worried about the privately-funded Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
"It's because they know if we get a lot of people coming, which we are, and we get this message out to culture, that it's going to change hearts and minds," he said. "Ultimately, it's a spiritual issue. It's part of a spiritual battle that's going on. We shouldn't be surprised by it."
To combat atheists' efforts to undermine the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, Ham encouraged supporters to not only visit both attractions, but to use social media to encourage others to come, as well.
"Everyone who visits - Christians and non-Christians alike - comment on the quality of these attractions," Ham said. "Members of the secular media have visited and commented on how professional and incredible these sights are. I encourage people to invite their non-Christian friends and others to come see it for themselves. I believe it can challenge many people if they would come and actually take note what of what we've got to say."