Virginia Town Cancels Ark Encounter After Atheist Backlash
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A special visit to The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum was just one of dozens of trips that Christiansburg Parks and Recreation offered to Virginia families this spring.
However, the city crossed the trip off the itinerary after facing outrage from a prominent atheist group.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Department, calling the field trip a violation of the constitution.
"While organizing and encouraging citizens to attend family-friendly recreation is a laudable goal, advertising and organizing a trip to a Christian ministry constitutes government endorsement of religion and alienates those Christiansburg residents who are not Christian and who are non-religious," FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel asserted.
"Advertising and organizing such an event sends the message that residents are expected to support such religious events," he added.
The city quickly responded with a letter advising that the trip had been cancelled.
This is not the first time that FFRF has targeted cities for organizing trips to the exhibit.
Last May, the organization sent letters to schools in Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to urge cancellation of trips to the Creation Museum.
Museum president Ken Ham told Christian News Network in a statement that it is not illegal for public schools to visit as long as it is 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," he said. "However, if students come here in an objective fashion and teachers show them our first-class exhibits and present our group's interpretation of the origin of man, then the field trip is fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational/cultural experience."
The FFRF calls the cancellation a victory for the separation of church and state.
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