Public Schools Visiting the Ark Encounter?

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The atheists are on the rampage again, and this time their target is our just-opened Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky. As the Ark grows in popularity, the attacks will only intensify.

The following is an excerpt of an email sent to Answers in Genesis by a reporter with a prominent newspaper in Kentucky. It deals with another effort by a highly aggressive atheist group that is opposed to any vestige of biblical Christianity in the public sphere:

We’ve been contacted by an atheist group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation [FFRF], which says it has sent memos to 1,000 school districts in five states warning against organizing trips to the Ark. I’d like to figure out if Answers in Genesis has been advised of that memo, whether school groups have expressed interest in tours, and offer an opportunity to comment on [the] memo if you’d like. Thank you.

The secular group FFRF has been behind many recent efforts to remove Christianity from the public arena and sometimes even from private places. The group has been aggressive in trying to see nativity scenes removed, getting Bibles taken out of hotel rooms, and in the past few months has been aggressively opposing the Ark Encounter.

Our religious freedom attorneys have crafted the following response to the censorship efforts of groups like the FFRF as this relates to whether or not government schools can constitutionally visit the Ark or AiG’s other facility, the popular Creation Museum.

If public schools were bringing students to the Ark and museum and declaring, “THIS interpretation is the only real truth that you should personally accept,” then that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

If classes are coming to the museum or Ark in an objective fashion, however, to show students world-class exhibits and one group’s interpretation of the origin of man and earth history, then the field trip is just fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational and cultural experience.

Public school officials should neither personally endorse nor diminish the museum’s view, but should present it objectively.

This principle is the same as “teaching the Bible in schools.” It is well established that the Bible may be used in the classroom objectively, as part of a secular program of education, for the Bible’s inherent historic and literary value. As long as the teacher doesn’t take a personal position in the classroom that the Bible is true, the teacher can say, “Millions of people around the globe do believe it is true, and let’s look at the effect that belief has had upon the development of Western Civilization, history, culture, art, music, and all the rest.”

Ultimately, it’s possible to attend the Creation Museum or Ark to teach rather than preach and to educate rather than indoctrinate.

Surely, liberal civil rights groups like the ACLU and the FFRF would not argue that on a field trip to a local theater, the school inherently endorses and adopts all of the viewpoints and themes that may be presented in each production.

While AiG has never advocated that creation or intelligent design be mandated in public schools, we point out that instructors already possess the academic freedom to bring both sides of an important issue to their students if they so choose.

They Can’t Handle the Truth

It’s a sad sign of the times as we recognize that atheists are allowed to bully school officials to maintain the dominance of secular, naturalistic teaching in the classroom. Indeed, many of the culture battles against Christianity are being conducted in government-run schools. With the mantra “separation of church and state” (not found in the US Constitution), secularists insist that virtually any mention of Christianity and the Bible is wrong in the classroom. It’s just more of the same old bullying tactics we have grown accustomed to seeing from groups like the FFRF. They have a deep hatred for biblical truths and want to keep others from being exposed to them. To grab a line from a famous courtroom film, “They can’t handle the truth.”

As long as a school trip fits an educational, recreational, or historical purpose, for example, it would be constitutionally appropriate.

Such antireligious zealotry causes secularists to grossly twist the First Amendment and then scare educators with a misinterpretation of the First Amendment. To repeat: as long as a school trip fits an educational, recreational, or historical purpose, for example, it would be constitutionally appropriate.

The secularist religion of humanism and naturalism is being taught in the public education system without challenge in most schools. This false teaching is deceiving many young people. Students are being taught that there is no God and that they are merely the products of random processes. No wonder so many teens and young adults hold to a secular worldview, including the young people in our churches who get hours of secular teaching in the classroom but, by comparison, get just a little Bible teaching on a Sunday!

The FFRF is not against religion in general but is against Christianity most of all!

The FFRF’s full name is the “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” But if you study the group, you quickly discover that the FFRF is not against religion in general but is against Christianity most of all! In its place, this anti-Christian group wants to see its religion of secularism and naturalism to be the only worldview students are exposed to. Their worldview is a faith system, one that believes the universe somehow came into existence and that by natural processes life eventually arose. That is their religion.

We recognize that such anti-Christian groups are not really fighting AiG and other ministries but are battling against the gospel of Christ. With their worldview of meaninglessness and purposelessness, these atheists need to be presented with the hope that comes through forgiveness offered by Christ. Join us in praying that the atheists will recognize their true desperation and will repent to trust in Christ.

Christian parent, you need to develop a biblical worldview in your young person, and help him or her answer the skeptical questions of our age that our secular culture is asking. We have all kinds of resources to assist you.

Postscript

After drafting this article, we obtained a copy of the threatening memo that the FFRF has sent to Kentucky’s public schools. Under the subject line, “Public School Field Trips to ’Ark Park’ Would Be Unconstitutional,” it included phrases such as,

[FFRF lawyers] caution public schools in your district about visiting a religious “Ark Park.” . . .

This is a precautionary memo to advise that public schools and public school staff may not constitutionally organize trips to Ham’s Ark Park. . . .

There are also serious constitutional issues. . . .

Thank you . . . for your support of the First Amendment.

With irony, we point out that bullying memos from this alleged civil liberties group ignore the First Amendment’s guarantee that there will be no prohibition of the free exercise of religion in America.

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