A roundtrip to The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, planned by Virginia parks and recreation department employees of a city ironically named "Christiansburg," was canceled after Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives pointed out the trip would violate the Constitution due to the "Christian and proselytizing nature" of the destination's exhibits.
The Ark Encounter is in Williamstown, Ky., and the museum is in Petersburg.
Wisconsin-based FFRF spokespeople stated they were informed by a "concerned local resident" about the planned Christiansburg visit for April 3-5 to the museums in Kentucky, and they "urged" the city to "refrain from organizing an outing to such overtly religious sites."
"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 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."
At the time this article was published, the excursion was still advertised on the city's website. Following the activity links reveals some of the activities were "full."
Aside from cost and deadlines, the trip information originally included a description of the Ark Encounter park as a way to "experience the pages of the Bible like never before," according to online sources.
Creation Museum President Ken Ham said he did not agree such trips would violate the Constitution, as long as they are 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," Ham told Christian News Network in a statement.
FFRF employees argued that The Ark Encounter is "a proudly Christian ministry," that Ham "has been open about the proselytizing nature of his projects right since the beginning."
"We are eagerly approaching what I believe will be a historic moment in Christendom," Ham stated in a 2016 letter outlining his motive for the new tourist attraction. "It's the opening of the one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era: the life-size Noah's Ark in Northern Kentucky. ... The [Creation] Museum and the Ark direct people to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ."
FFRF employees said that mission reveals why it is problematic for government entities to coordinate outings to the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum.
CBN News reports FFRF representatives during last May sent letters to schools in Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to urge cancellation of trips to the Creation Museum, due to the same concerns about separation of church and state.