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Many weeks before “Date Night,” ministry leadership became aware that a fervent museum opponent was planning to crash a museum dinner where couples would hear a special talk by Ken Ham on marriage.
As Answers in Genesis (AiG) representatives have stated many times in response to media interviews and other inquiries, the Creation Museum welcomes all visitors—regardless of their beliefs. Because the museum unapologetically presents a biblical worldview that is largely excluded from public schools, secular museums, and the media, we truly hope that people will be open-minded enough to consider coming to a unique museum and learn about an alternative perspective that is largely discriminated against in society.1 At the same time, any person who comes with the intent to bait or test museum staff, such as the male couple who declared their pre-meditated intent to attend a museum-sponsored Date Night dinner in order to act “flamboyantly gay” (the words posted by one of them on a blog last month) and provoke an incident that would disrupt the other guests, is entirely another matter.
Many weeks before the February 11 “Date Night at the Creation Museum,” ministry leadership became aware that Mr. Joe Sonka, a fervent museum opponent, was planning to crash a museum dinner where couples would hear a special talk by Ken Ham on marriage principles from the book of Genesis. In a January posting on his website, Mr. Sonka announced his strategy to send a same-sex couple to the event, stating: “Let’s get to work doing a fundraiser so we can send the most flamboyantly gay couple imaginable to this dinner” (http://barefootandprogressive.blogspot.com/2011/01/date-night-at-creation-museum.html).
[Editor’s Note: We caution our readers that the above link contains vulgar language. Read at your own discretion.]
“Fantastic presentation on marriage. A blessed evening.”
“Enjoyed Christian fellowship and meeting new friends.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed tonight. I enjoyed being in a Christian environment, and everything ‘was just right.’”
– Comments from guests at Friday date night
Mr. Sonka was aware that Answers in Genesis/Creation Museum accepts the Bible’s teaching in Genesis regarding God’s plan for the institution of marriage, as one man, one woman—for life. (According to his blog, he has visited the museum at least twice before.) Like many other Bible-upholding ministries, we do not hide the fact that we oppose redefinition of marriage or the altering of the biblical stance on relationships between men and women. Knowing the ministry/museum position on these issues, Mr. Sonka deliberately wanted to manufacture a scene at our special event by being “flamboyantly” disruptive. His obvious purpose was to gain attention and generate news coverage, not to enjoy the evening’s pro-marriage message based in Genesis. In the process of stirring up trouble, he hoped to create a news spectacle and provide fodder for his blog. Curiously, though Mr. Sonka was the instigator of the party-crashing scheme, he was reluctant to pay for the two tickets himself, extending his stunt by creating a public auction to pay for the tickets and cover his expenses to get to the museum (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2111059812/whore-v-virgin-date-night-at-the-creation-museum).
After the museum had closed to the general public on the evening of February 11, two males and one female arrived inside the museum’s portico to check in for the after-hours dinner and talk. They were met by two museum safety officers, who noticed the party consisted of three individuals, not four, and the officers asked them if another person was going to be joining them for the dinner. To their affirmative response, one of the officers inquired about the type of vehicle “she” would be driving and asked for “her” name so the museum staff could alert the front gate, which is closed after museum hours, to allow her entry. One of the two men, who identified himself as Brandon, volunteered that it was a “he” who was coming to dinner. Brandon was asked whether the individual who was running late was, in fact, his partner for the evening, to which he replied, “Yes.” He further confirmed his name was Joe (Sonka), which is what we had suspected for weeks since learning of his set-up plans. The safety officer explained to him that according to Date Night advertisements and ministry website announcements,2 this event was being held in a Christian environment (e.g., where guests would hear a message about “the biblical view of marriage.”), further stating that it appeared that Brandon and Joe Sonka were coming with disruptive intentions to make some kind of a statement.
The officers politely informed Brandon that he would not be allowed to attend the dinner and that he would have to leave the premises. The following words were verbally shared with him from a script (again, we anticipated the party-crashers) that included the following phrase: “It seems that you may have come tonight with either wrong intentions or to make a statement of sorts.”
Brandon waited in the portico as his companions, the male/female couple, entered the event. About one-half hour later, Mr. Sonka drove up to the front entrance—but never left his car—as Brandon exited the portico and entered Mr. Sonka’s vehicle before they drove off the property together.
As a part of their manufactured deception, we should point out that at least one of the two men has since acknowledged that he is not even a homosexual. So this was not a “gay” couple at all but a part of their act. It reveals yet one more thing about their deceit. We point out, too, that the event was billed as a “Date Night.” As such, it was a romantic dinner. We note that Merriam-Webster defines “date” as “a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character.” The men were not on a date; they were not even a couple; it’s clear they had other intentions for being there.
By the way, if gay people read Mr. Sonka’s January 13 comment, wouldn’t they be offended by what could be called his “sexual identity theft” in his set-up, especially considering that he planned to play to the “flamboyant” gay stereotype and that his “date,” Brandon, is not gay?
Since the museum is on private property, we have the right to require appropriate, respectful behavior from our guests, and not “flamboyant” behavior. Accordingly, we have signs posted on the complex that declare: “The Creation Museum is private property, a Christian environment . . . Guests at the museum are expected to conduct themselves in a polite, respectful manner at all times;“ conduct “offensive to other guests or to the staff will be subject to removal from the premises.” We have every right to remove people from our private property who engage—or have expressed the intent to engage—in behavior that disrupts the experience of other guests, including those individuals who want to act in an ostentatious manner to call attention to themselves and be disrespectful towards people who might take offense at their disruptive actions.
Mr. Sonka, the main offender in this intentional and strategic set up, has a history of writing hateful articles against AiG and the museum. For example, on December 26 he wrote on his blog that we commit intellectual “child abuse.”
With his blog “report” on Friday’s Date Night that appeared over the weekend, Mr. Sonka wrote of the incident as if he was personally engaged by the safety officers He contended: “I rushed back from DC to my old Kentucky home last night to attend the spectacular ‘Date Night at the Creation Museum,’ where my date and I were to take in a nice dinner and listen to Ken Ham explain what makes a good relationship work. Unfortunately, we were told at the door that we would not be allowed entry. They explained to us that the Creation Museum Date Night was a ‘Christian environment.’” ( http://barefootandprogressive.blogspot.com/2011/02/no-same-sex-couples-allowed-at-creation.html). Contrary to what Mr. Sonka claims, he was not told at the door that he would be denied entry—he simply was not even there! Nothing was “explained” to him, since he never arrived. (Our videos confirm that since Mr. Sonka could not, with integrity, give a first-person or even personal account of what transpired in the portico, as he never entered the museum nor did he ever speak to the officers who engaged his companion, Brandon.)
Because Mr. Sonka’s “report,” now widely circulated on the Internet, was not based on anything he had materially witnessed, his blog “testimony” should be dismissed out-of-hand as hearsay. Anyone who purports to be a serious citizen-journalist should have acknowledged this. Further, Mr. Sonka cannot be viewed as an objective blogger because of several hateful blogs he has posted against AiG (sometimes using vulgar language). His intended crashing of the dinner was not a “one-off” thing regarding his disdain of the museum.3
Mr. Sonka is accurate on one detail in his blog: that he was denied entry to this event. But his report conveniently omitted mentioning his real purpose in coming.
By the way, the heterosexual couple who were waiting in the portico was clearly aware of the intentions of Brandon and Mr. Sonka. Yet they were not asked to leave, and they did attend the dinner. We discovered later that the man was Mr. Jonathan Meador, a writer for LEO, an alternative weekly newspaper in Louisville, which has also been harsh towards the Creation Museum (e.g., http://leoweekly.com/news-features/major-stories/features/what-a-shame-with-a-new-27-million-creation-museum-and-a-good-m). But because there was no prior intent (of which we were aware) that Mr. Meador and his date would be disruptive, we welcomed them, and they were respectful. Even if we knew ahead of time that Mr. Meador was with a newspaper that had attacked the Creation Museum, we would still have gladly welcomed him and his guest.
We wish to note that just as a sports fan who is ejected from or asked to leave a sporting event on account of his or her behavior does not usually get a ticket refund, the Creation Museum may similarly use its discretion about whether or not to issue a refund. Because the food prepared for the couple went to waste due to their own actions, the ministry does not intend to pay for their well-prepared, elegant meals and desserts, as collateral damage from their subterfuge and no fault of our own. In addition, the $35.95 per ticket also paid for the musician we hired for the evening, as well as additional hard costs, such as our housekeeping staff who worked extra hours to clean up after the event.
The Creation Museum is proud of the professionalism of our highly trained officers in their polite, yet firm interaction with Brandon, Jonathan Meador, and his guest (and Mr. Sonka, who had already publicly expressed a goal to make an ostentatious scene at the dinner). The officers’ restraint is highly commendable, given the deception and intent to be disruptive by Mr. Sonka, a man known to be hateful and intolerant towards AiG and the Creation Museum.
In the past, our staff has observed what they believed to be “gay” couples walking through the museum, and these guests were not approached (except in the rare instance where they were deemed to be acting in a disruptive manner). The Creation Museum has always welcomed individuals and groups who do not necessarily share our views; we want all people to be exposed to the biblical truths presented in the museum, which are not generally being seen or heard in a society that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity.
The thwarting of an attempted event-crashing last Friday evening is yet another sad example of our times when a hateful, intolerant, politically correct person with a contrarian agenda publicly declares that he will engage in flamboyant, disruptive behavior on the private property of a ministry, after which he and like-minded anti-Christian bloggers malign the officials of the Christian facility for our beliefs and actions. Museum officials acted to ensure that the other 96 dinner guests would be able to enjoy their dinner, music, and a special message on Genesis and marriage without disruption. These bloggers are not only revealing their intolerance of Christianity and the museum’s views, but they are condoning the inappropriate, deceitful behavior of two people who intended to spoil a special dinner event by making a scene. It’s another example of intolerant anti-Christians who manufacture their own situation so that at the end they hope to pound on their chest and cry “victimhood.”
It is a shame, too, that the LEO newspaper reporter, Mr. Meador, who attended the Date Night dinner, did not ask us for background on the event before writing his anti-museum piece. If Mr. Meador had simply called us before he posted his article, he would have learned that two people in his party were trying to set us up and he would have discovered that they had announced their plot a few weeks ago. If he had done his homework, perhaps Mr. Meador would not have been so supportive of the efforts of Mr. Sonka and Brandon to undermine the event and this ministry.4
Since we posted this article, there have been several new developments.
First, two very different media outlets have exposed the men’s hoax. A Florida gay newspaper featured an editorial entitled “Exposing Internet Frauds” in which the editor chastised the media and bloggers for not disclosing all the facts surrounding the set-up. On local television, Cincinnati’s Channel 19 featured an investigative piece on the intended disruption on its February 22 evening newscast. Then, on its February 23 morning newscast, an anchor called the stunt a “hoax.” See the February 22 newscast.
It has also been confirmed that neither man involved is gay. Both have publically acknowledged this.
After our above web article was posted, a nationally known attorney reminded us that there was also a safety issue involved in this incident (which was a concern for our museum staff that evening). We can illustrate it this way. If your church got wind that someone had expressed intent to disrupt your morning service this Sunday, and the person arrived who you knew to be the instigator, would you allow him inside your church? No. You wouldn’t want to subject the congregation to a possible safety concern. You don’t know what action will actually be carried out in the church. In our violent world, it could end up being much more than a disruption, and that kind of a threat extends to a public facility like the Creation Museum where biblical truths are presented to an increasingly secularized world.
Curiously, LEO writer, Mr. Meador, said (according to an article on the TPM website on February 23) that he enjoyed the dinner event. He stated that he found the evening’s talk “very interesting,” adding that “it was much more pleasant than I had expected.” We wonder why he would have made that comment when elsewhere he declared that “my fists clenched with rage” at the event (February 16 posting on the LEO website).
Since our article appeared, some media outlets have falsely reported that gay people are not allowed inside the museum. That is not true on two counts. First, the two men were not turned away from touring the museum but rather from a special after-hours event at which at least one of them was planning to be disruptive. Second, and we don’t know how often we must say it, but all people, regardless of their views, are invited to tour the museum.
We emphasize again that this was “Date Night at the Creation Museum.” It was a special romantic dinner that focused on the relationship that God established in the Garden of Eden: marriage (Genesis 1). This was not “buddy night” at the museum.