Ken Ham Mischaracterizes Camp Quest as Place of Indoctrination; CQ Director Responds October 9, 2009

Ken Ham Mischaracterizes Camp Quest as Place of Indoctrination; CQ Director Responds

Reader Doug happens to be on the mailing list for Answers in Genesis. So he’s been getting their newsletter for a little while now. A recent article stood out to him. It was about Camp Quest, the summer camp for children of atheist parents.

You can read the article by clicking on the images below or just go here for the online version:



Gotta love the comic on the second page…

It’s notable that the article contained some glaring errors. (Some of which have since been rectified in the online piece with footnotes.)

For example, the article mentions this:

So these children, whose worldview is helping to be formed by those who teach them at the camp, are supposedly “encouraged to think for themselves”? Is that why the young people are given a free T-shirt that states “It’s Okay To Be An Atheist”? And why a “nine-year old Camp Quest camper, who after being De-Baptized [using a hairdryer], raised her arms skyward and loudly proclaimed, ‘I can see!’”?

Of course, they were not being taught to think for themselves, as any “bright” “free-thinker” can easily see. These children were being indoctrinated against Christianity, especially with their adult-led mockery of Christian baptism. They were explicitly taught to reject God!

I shot the video of that nine-year-old girl saying what she did. You can see it here:

Does that look like an outdoor camp? Of course not. It took place at a party last year during which participants could voluntarily get in line for a de-baptism

AiG eventually realized this and issued this clarification:

Since this article was posted, we learned that the “mass de-baptism” did not occur at Camp Quest but at a different venue in Ohio. We inferred from a statement in the American Atheist article referenced above — that a “nine-year-old Camp Quest camper who, after being De-Baptized, raised her arms skyward and loudly proclaimed, ‘I can see!’” — that the sacrilege occurred at Camp Quest. This belief was fostered by noting that the AA article featured a photo of the founder of the Camp Quest movement conducting the de-baptism and also because photos depicted a rustic camp-like setting — all suggesting that this event was held at a camp that Camp Quest has become known for hosting. So, even though the young girl was described in the article as a Camp Quest camper (and thus we took the article to say that the de-baptism happened at Camp Quest), we made a logical yet inaccurate inference, and, so, we regret that in a fallen world, fallible people can make inadvertent mistakes like this. For this reason, we wish to retract the inference we had made that the incident took place at Camp Quest.

Good for him for issuing a retraction.

But that’s the crux of the entire piece. They claim that Camp Quest is all about childhood indoctrination into atheism, yet the primary examples they give are all wrong. There’s no mass de-baptism at the camp — not even in jest. Nor did Camp Quest issue shirts reading “It’s Okay To Be An Atheist” as the AiG piece claims.

This is typical of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. They latch onto something minor which can easily be explained by those with more knowledge on the subject and stretch it into some major condemnation of non-Christian belief. And it’d be laughable if it weren’t so serious.

What AiG needs to do is print the footnote explanation in their next newsletter.

(I’m still looking forward to the clarification which states they were wrong about the entire Creation Museum.)

For the record, Amanda Metskas is the director of Camp Quest. Here’s what she told me about the camp in response to Ham’s article:

We definitely do not debaptize children at Camp Quest. We don’t label the campers of Camp Quest with a worldview, and that includes avoiding rituals like debaptism at camp. Besides, if you know anything about our demographics, a fair number of our campers were never baptized in the first place, so debaptism isn’t only inappropriate at camp, but also largely unnecessary!

I personally think that both baptism and debaptism are more appropriate for adults. One of the problems with baptism is that it is a decision often made by parents for children before the children are old enough to consent or understand the ritual they are participating in. Debaptism is a humorous response to that very problem by letting people revoke their participation in a ritual that they never consented to in the first place.

Ken Ham also claims that we have shirts that say “It’s okay not to believe in God,” which is not true. That sentence was a comment written by an anonymous camper in 2004 on his/her camp evaluation form in response to a question asking “What have you learned at Camp Quest 2004?” Note that the camper didn’t write that there isn’t a god, just that it is okay not to believe. We aren’t trying to convert campers to a particular worldview at camp, but we are trying to send them the message that there is nothing wrong with them or with their parents for not believing in a god. In our pervasively religious culture, this is something that a lot of our campers really need to hear, and that is exactly the message that this camper got from the Camp Quest experience.

Answers in Genesis has a history of mischaracterizing Camp Quest. I think they like to make us the bogeyman to scare their supporters into donating more money or buying more products from them. In the future, I encourage them to contact us when they are writing an article, or at least do some basic fact checking before going to press. I’d be happy to be interviewed for a future AiG newsletter article that would correct some of the errors they’ve made in this article.

It’s an eloquent response from the head of the organization. I imagine she’d have even more interesting thoughts to share with Ham’s followers if he took her up on that last line.

Will he do that? I doubt it. But I’d love to be proven wrong here.

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  • Jeff

    I love the part at the end after his whole “Camp Quest is evil, yada, yada, yada” and then his conclusion is “Buy our shit”

  • This is typical of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. They latch onto something minor which can easily be explained by those with more knowledge on the subject and stretch it into some major condemnation of non-Christian belief.

    Creationists lying?? INCONCEIVEABLE!

    Also, Christians (especially Creationists) complaining about the indoctrinization of children is probably the most ironic thing in the history of the world. Do I really need to point out the thousands of Christian camps in the United States or all of the hundreds of childrens services Ham has done over the years?

  • blargh, the hypocrisy! There are no words!

  • Yeah. It is so interesting how they try to continue to sell tickets to their crap-tacular Creationist Museum. Personally, I would rather see the Klaus Barbie museum than any sort of “Creation Museum”.

  • The Klaus Barbie is, of course, a collectable Barbie doll dressed in a black SS uniform with optional accessories such as stiletto heels and a riding crop…

    Either that or it’s that Gestapo officer who was known as “the Butcher of Lyon” and who was extradited from the United States for trial in France a few years ago.

  • Their “retraction” is borderline insulting. Instead of simply apologizing, it is worded as though it were an honest mistake on their part that is really the fault of the maker of the video above.

    Just apologize and move on. Next time research instead of making assumptions….you know, like journalists are supposed to do.

  • Norm

    As a board member for both Camp Quest of Minnesota and Camp Quest Inc., I echo Amanda in assuring everyone that no de-baptism ceremonies have ever taken place at any of our camps. The Minnesota mission statement does not even make any reference to any supernatural beings. And while we certainly want to continue to grow and serve more campers, this summer a grand total of about 250 kids went to the existing camps, as opposed to the millions who were sent to Bible camp, so we are hardly brainwashing the nation’s children. I’m flattered Ken Ham thought we were worthy of his attention, but, as always, he needs to do his research.

  • It is soooo unfair that “they” have a million camps, even though Jesus Camp shut down because of ‘negative pub’, and there are only a few scattered CQ’s. I guess being fair is not what they are about. About de-baptism, according to JW’s and the Catholic church, once you are in, your are in for good. they don’t acknowledge de-baptisms. That’s OK, we don’t recognize their so called authority. “H” once again excellent work. Thanks.


  • llewelly

    And while we certainly want to continue to grow and serve more campers, this summer a grand total of about 250 kids went to the existing camps, as opposed to the millions who were sent to Bible camp, so we are hardly brainwashing the nation’s children.

    Don’t you understand that any of those 250 children could be come the Antichrist? Imagine what would happen if 250 Antichrists burst across the face of America, teaching Satanism, woman-on-top sexual immorality, and Dungeons and Dragons?
    In no time at all, children all across America would be listening to heavy metal music, wearing tattoos and piercings, and telling their elders “We’ll stay on your f**king lawn and you’ll like it!”
    Worst of all, some children would come to believe they came from monkeys. Therefor, they would act like monkeys, and throw feces at the pastor.
    You need to understand that no child is born an atheist. Therefor atheists need to recruit our children. That’s what the move to put evolution in schools is all about!

  • Siamang

    llewelly: awesome!

    AiG said:


    I LOLed at that word.

    Ain’t that their small-minded, tiny little hard-hearted God in a nutshell? Created the universe, but can’t take a joke.

  • What ninnies they are.

    BTW, anybody besides me recognize that stock “family” photo? Go check out the “Stand for Marriage Maine” site. Do all of the RRRW whackos use the same photo? They certainly can’t claim they’re too poor to afford their own photos so what’s the deal?

  • What incredible circular reasoning. Kids know there is a god because it says so in the bible… then why is there a Sunday School?

    Also, if Islam was the majority religion here, Islam would get the majority of the criticism. With the increased exposure American Atheists and freethinkers know more about and are exposed to more Xian baloney, and so are more prepared to engage in counter apologetics against Xianity. But if a Camp Quest kid wrote, “It is OK to not believe in Allah,” or “It is OK not to believe in Odin,” the sentiment is the same. Hmmmmm, since when did “God” only mean YHWH?

    And the mill stone quote is skirting quite close to a call to action. If you tell believers that their god/s/ess/es support violence, the believers are more willing to tolerate and support violence. Ham is getting desperate.

  • valdemar

    Well, if you expect these people to get their facts straight, you’re going to be disappointed. They’ve already got their facts wrong about all the most important things in life, with the possible exceptions of incest and folk dancing.

  • “So these children, whose worldview is helping to be formed by those who teach them at the camp, are supposedly “encouraged to think for themselves”

    Wow…sounds like most of us in the USA may have suffered this abuse when we attended “Sunday School”, “CCD classes”, were ‘Baptized’ and ‘Confirmed’ in the church because if we didn’t we would not be allowed to be married in the church in the future

    I wonder if this statement left any decisions I had open to thinking for myself; “If you do not believe you are going to burn in hell for eternity”.

    …and how’s that circumcision thing going…I think I was too young to “think” for myself, but my parents indoctrinated me into Catholicism and left a mark to show it.

    I wonder…is being circumsized the “mark of the beast” so many talk about?

  • Christophe Thill

    One could think that Ken Ham, being a specialist in indoctrination, could tell it when he sees it. One would be wrong, apparently.

    As for the comic… Is it totally idiotic, or what???

  • muggle

    I got this shit the whole time I was raising my daughter. I was brainwashing her because I didn’t teach her their religion.

    When I pointed out the same could be said of them because they didn’t teach other religions, they’d stammer but I do tell my child about various religions and recite the various we must tolerate Judaism, Bhuddism, Hinduism, etc. All the PC crap.

    I’d arch my eyebrows and say in depth? Do you send your child to their places of worship other than for interfaith functions. And when they’d stammer well, no, but that’s not necessary, I’d say same here. I was raised Christian and tell her what I was raised to believe.

    They seemed to have some concept that I didn’t talk with my daughter about such things; perhaps, because via her friends shock at the things she could discuss with me, they weren’t so open-minded with their own kids. Of course, I didn’t bother to tell them what I tell other nonbelievers – that when I got done explaining belief (and I also often told her Jewish beliefs too since I’ve studied Judaism in depth and almost converted once; other religions I didn’t know much about, I’d honestly tell her I don’t know), she’d invariably wrinkle her brow and say but that doesn’t make any sense! What could I do to that but shrug and say this is your brain on religion?

    Then I’d drive the point home (and subtley, I hope, point out their PC-ness) by asking do you teach your child about Satanism? They’d have to admit they didn’t.

    They’d lay off after that and can you blame them for not wanting to broach the topic with me again? Me either. 😉

    It’s annoying as hell. I agree with Dawkins that scaring kids with hell and making them feel like a dirty sinner and not tolerating any dissent in the matter from them is a form of child abuse even when the religious parent isn’t outright physically abusive.

    They’d be the first to object if they couldn’t raise their child with what they believe but they just didn’t get that I had as much right to raise my child in my world view as they did theirs.

    Funny, my daughter doesn’t seem to take as much flack about my unchurched grandson. Don’t know if it’s a NY thing versus a CO thing even though NY is a lot less open-minded than it was before we moved to Denver or if he’s just too young yet for it to really start up.

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