FFRF wants government-organized creationist outing nixed

1CherokeeGAThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking that a Georgia county agency cancel an upcoming creationist outing.

The Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency is organizing a trip to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum for senior community members from Oct. 2-5. The Ark Encounter, recently constructed in Kentucky, is a Christian ministry run by the creationist Ken Ham, who also built the notorious Creation Museum. Ham has been clear about the proselytizing nature of his projects from the beginning. In his June 27, 2016, letter entitled, "Our Real Motive for Building Ark Encounter," he lays out a clear, evangelistic goal:

We are eagerly approaching what I believe will be a historic moment in Christendom. It's the opening of one of the greatest Christian outreaches of our era: the life-size Noah's Ark in Northern Kentucky. . . . The [Creation] Museum and Ark direct people to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ham quotes bible verses to further illuminate his motive before finally stating it plainly: "Our motive is to do the King's business until He comes. And that means preaching the gospel and defending the faith, so that we can reach as many souls as we can . . . millions of souls will hear the most important message of all . . . a message of hope from the holy, righteous Judge who, despite our sin, wants us to spend eternity with Him!"

Ham's explicit declaration of his theme parks' purpose makes it constitutionally impermissible for a government agency to organize a visit there.

"It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government cannot in any way promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell reminds Cherokee County Attorney Angela Davis. "Advertising and organizing such an event sends the message that residents are expected to support such religious events." 

Such an endeavor also alienates those Cherokee County residents who are not Christian and who are nonreligious. Approximately one-fourth of the American population is nonreligious, and roughly 30 percent count themselves as non-Christian.

"These theme parks have on display nothing but unscientific balderdash," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "A government agency cannot — and should not — be organizing excursions to such nonsensical creations."

FFRF is requesting that the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency cancel the October outing to the two creationist entities.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members and chapters across the country, including almost 500 members and a chapter in Georgia. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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