It ought to be obvious to everyone why a public school shouldn’t be planning a field trip to the Creation Museum or Ark Encounter, both of which are Christian propaganda tools that operate under the guise of science attractions.
Those are the same reasons city officials can’t plan trips for adults to those pseudo-churches. They’d be using government resources to promote Christianity. Christianity and a giant miscolored rainbow.
But that’s what the Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Department (in Virginia) planned to do this April — until a resident spoke up and got the Freedom from Religion Foundation involved:
FFRF said that this reveals why it is so problematic for government entities to coordinate outings to the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum.
“Advertising and organizing a trip to a Christian ministry constitutes government endorsement of religion and alienates those Christiansburg residents who are not Christian and are nonreligious,” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to Brad Epperley, director of the Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Department. “It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government can in no way advance, promote or otherwise endorse religion. Advertising and organizing such an event sends a message that residents are expected to endorse such events.“
The mild pressure worked. The city responded within days that it would be cancelling the trip. No argument. No attempt at justification. Just a response that the trip wouldn’t be happening.
“The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum are Christian-themed hoaxes that no one should fall for, let alone a governmental body,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad that we were able to open the eyes of Christiansburg officials.”
Everyone in the city can still visit Ken Ham‘s churches on their own time. There’s no reason such trips should be planned and promoted by the government.
Ham hasn’t responded to this particular incident yet. Based on when he responded to a similar incident involving public schools, though, you can bet he still doesn’t understand how the law works:
Museum president Ken Ham told Christian News Network in a statement that it is not illegal for public schools to visit as long as it is done objectively.
“If public schools were bringing students here and their teachers were saying, ‘THIS interpretation is the only truth that you should personally accept,’ then that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution,” he said. “However, if students come here in an objective fashion and teachers show them our first-class exhibits and present our group’s interpretation of the origin of man, then the field trip is fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational/cultural experience.”
That’s not how the courts see it at all. When you’ve promoted the attractions as the “greatest Christian outreaches of our era” and said the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter “direct people to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ” — both of which Ham has done — you’re no longer going to an objective place of learning. You’re going to a church that dabbles in alternative facts because the people who run it have no grasp of reality.
There’s no reason taxpayer dollars should be wasted on Christian conspiracy theories.