FFRF published a press release with the headline: “FFRF Warning More Than 1,000 School Districts About New ‘Noah’s Ark.’”
In the article, they stated:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is advising public schools in more than 1,000 school districts against visiting a new religious theme park. . . . FFRF is already receiving inquiries from concerned parents that overzealous teachers or principals may mistakenly believe it appropriate to schedule school-related trips to the Ark Encounter, as has happened with the Creation Museum. In order to allay such concerns and to remind public schools of their constitutional obligations, it is sending a memo to every school district in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio.
Actually, FFRF is undermining or encouraging the violation of the First Amendment by bullying school districts with this threat. (Their usual threatening technique is to try to intimidate people to do what FFRF wants—not what the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees!)
FFRF has no right (and no legal basis whatsoever) to intimidate public schools.
On the basis of the First Amendment of the US 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.
Really, public school students could benefit from a visit to Ark Encounter for educational purposes. School officials are not asked to endorse as truth everything they see, and they don't. (Just as they don't endorse as truth the content of every class video, stage production, and cultural experience in other field trips.) The Ark is merely an awesome opportunity to give kids exposure to one point of view in a very vivid way. That is in no way unlawful, and no court has ever said it is.
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. As attorneys for the Center For Religious Expression stated to me:
Once again, FFRF is wrong. Public schools are free to take students on field trips to any place they find educationally beneficial, which can include parks, museums, and even churches, that have religious connotations. The Constitution demands the state be neutral—not hostile—toward religion. To deny students the unique opportunity to see and experience a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark—just because its existence is described in the Bible—would be decidedly hostile.
If we don’t stand against such bullying, then we will see (as we’ve already witnessed) the erosion of religious liberties in this great nation.
To help encourage public schools to stand up against this bullying and uphold their constitutional rights, I would like to make the following valuable offer:
If public school students are booked as a group through their school to come to the Ark Encounter (or Creation Museum) for educational, recreational, or historical purposes during 2016, we will allow them to do so at a cost of $1 per child with accompanying teachers free. Just call our customer service line at 855-284-3275 to book the school group. It must be a legitimate public school group booked through their elementary, middle, or high school.
By the way, Associated Press published a story about this FFRF letter sent to public schools. They reported:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a message to school districts Monday in response saying that neither outside groups nor state education officials should dictate field trip selection. A school’s site-based decision-making council approves trips.
A number of legal groups help organizations defend their religious liberties against the bullying tactics of groups like FFRF. This is a freedom of religion issue in that the FFRF is saying that schools can’t take students to the Ark because it happens to be a facility that represents a Biblically historical account; it is also a students’ rights issue in that the FFRF is attempting to deny students the opportunity to enrich their educational experience.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,