To rebut threatening letters sent to Kentucky’s public schools by an atheist group attempting to stop field trips to the Ark Encounter, Ken Ham, CEO/Founder of the Ark, has mailed letters to the superintendents of the same schools to assure them of the legality of sending classes on an official school trip to the popular attraction in Northern Kentucky. In his letter today, Religious Freedom Day in America, Ham also reiterated his promise that to encourage public schools to visit the world-class attraction, students and their teacher would receive free admission in 2019. Ham’s letter was mailed to over 170 public school superintendents in Kentucky.
Earlier this month, the anti-Christian Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a warning letter to 1,000 public schools in Kentucky and other states, claiming that “public schools and public school staff may not constitutionally organize trips to the Ark Encounter or [its sister attraction] the Creation Museum.”
Ham, however, noted that religious liberty experts confirm that “if public school classes tour the Ark or museum in an objective fashion to supplement a school’s teaching of world religions, literature, interpretation of history, etc., then the field trip, with free admission, is an educational experience.” At the same time, Ham acknowledged that “if students were brought to the Ark or museum and told by their teacher that the religious content should be accepted as truth, then the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, as currently being interpreted by the courts, would be violated.”
A highly respected religious freedom attorney, Mr. Nate Kellum, confirmed Ham’s conclusion. Kellum is sending a letter along with Ham’s to the superintendents of Kentucky’s public schools. In that letter, he observed that FFRF’s warning letter to schools “notably fails to cite a single case indicating that a field trip to a religious facility is unconstitutional.”
Ken Ham made this comparison on Religious Freedom Day: “Similarly, we would have no objection if a school took an official field trip to a mosque so that students could learn what Muslims believe, as well as their Islamic history. After all, the Islamic faith and Muslim nations are much in the news. As long as the teacher does not affirm Islamic beliefs, then the school is not advancing religion or indoctrinating students. The school is simply adding to a student’s education. Likewise, the accounts of the Ark and flood are major events in history according to Christians and Jews.”
Kellum leads the Center for Religious Expression (CRE), a non-profit public interest law firm that focuses on First Amendment rights. It regularly works with public officials to ensure those rights are properly understood and respected. See www.crelaw.org
In his letter to the superintendents, Ham repeated his no-charge pledge to public schools in encouraging them to visit the life-size Noah’s Ark in 2019: “I want to offer admission free of charge to all public schools in 2019 who received the FFRF letter—and to any other public school in America—that want to bring their students to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum as an official school trip.”
Ham concluded: “If the FFRF dares threaten or bully a public school, we have access to expert constitutional law attorneys like Mr. Kellum who will provide their services to the school, pro bono, even if that means handling a case that could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Answers in Genesis, celebrating 25 years of outreach this year, is an apologetics (i.e., Bible-defending) ministry based in northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati. AiG’s Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historically themed attraction with a massive Noah’s Ark as the centerpiece and draws over one million guests a year. The Creation Museum, located west of the Cincinnati Airport, has welcomed over 4 million visitors since opening in 2007.
More information about AiG and its attractions can be found at www.AnswersInGenesis.org Today’s presidential proclamation in observance of Religious Freedom Day can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/