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Atheist Group Threatens Legal Action Against Public Schools if They Visit Ken Ham's 'Ark Encounter'

( [email protected] ) Jul 21, 2016 11:12 AM EDT
Allowing public school students to visit Ken Ham's "Ark Encounter," the life-size recreation of Noah's Ark in Kentucky, is unconstitutional and may warrant legal action, the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), has warned.
Kentucky's Ark Encounter, a recreation of Noah's Ark, opened to the public Thursday, July 7, 2016. AP Photo

Allowing public school students to visit Ken Ham's "Ark Encounter," the life-size recreation of Noah's Ark in Kentucky, is unconstitutional and may warrant legal action, the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), has warned.

According to the Christian Examiner, the FFRF sent letters to more than 1,000 school districts claiming that a public school field trip to the Creationist attraction would "violate the Constitution and the First Amendment."

"Public schools and public school staff may not constitutionally organize trips to Ham's Ark Park, with its clear religious goal and portrayal of fiction as divine truth, or to the Creation Museum or any other religious venue," reads the letter.

"In this country, Ham is free to erect monuments to his bible, but public schools are not permitted to expose the children in their charge to religious myths and proselytizing."

It concludes: "Public schools cannot organize trips for students to either the Creation Museum or the Ark Park. Doing so would violate the student's' rights of conscience and the Constitution."

Ham, who is also the founder of Answers in Genesis, offered to admit schoolchildren into the Ark for $1 and teachers for free. Admission is normally $40.

The Creationist also issued a statement in response to the letters sent by the FFRF, writing, "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 government-run schools as they are trying to do in this letter sent to more than 1,000 schools."

"Americans, I urge you to stand up to the FFRF! We need to let them know we are not going to be bullied into going against our First Amendment rights," he continued.

Built with the same measurements God gave Noah in Genesis 6:15, the ark is the largest timber-frame structure in the world. It's just over 500 feet long - one and a half times the length of a football field - about 50 feet tall, and 85 feet wide.

Inside, life-like displays and animatronics tell the Old Testament story of Noah, his family, the animals, and the flood that destroyed the world thousands of years ago.

Earlier, Ham explained that the Ark Encounter is a fun and exciting way to present God's truth to the word and expressed hopes that the attraction will draw at least a million visitors this year.

"More than ever, people need to discover the truth of God's Word beginning in Genesis and the saving Gospel of the New Testament. That is especially true today for teens and millennials (including those inside the Church)," he wrote earlier this year.

"Our culture needs to take a voyage of discovery and discover that: God's Word concerning the history of the universe and all life is true. God's Word concerning man's sinful state and his need of salvation in Christ is true," he added.

The Ark Encounter website includes information about the various exhibits and the other attractions connected with the Ark, including the Zip Lines and Ararat Ridge Zoo.