City Recreation Dept. Cancels Trip to Ark Encounter After Atheist Group Asserts Visit Is ‘Unconstitutional’

CHARLESTON, Ill. — The Charleston Department of Parks and Recreation in Illinois has reportedly cancelled an upcoming trip to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and Creation Museum after receiving a letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asserting that the public offering is unconstitutional.

The trip was scheduled for Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, 2019, and was to have also included a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo and a riverboat sightseeing cruise. Departure was to be from the Charleston Carnegie Public Library via a Diamond Tours motorcoach.

“It is unconstitutional for the City of Charleston to endorse Ken Ham’s religious mission by organizing, sponsoring, or funding a trip to the Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum,” wrote attorney Ryan Jayne on Dec. 3 on behalf of FFRF. “It is a fundamental principle of Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the government may not promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion.”

The letter said that organizing a trip of a religious nature sends the message that the Department of Parks and Recreation supports Ken’s Ham’s mission to “direct people to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“To avoid violating the Establishment clause, all City-sponsored events must be secular in nature,” Jayne wrote.

“While organizing and encouraging citizens to attend recreational events is a laudable goal, advertising and organizing a trip to a Christian museum and theme park alienates those Charleston residents who are not Christian, including the 23% of the American population who are nonreligious,” he asserted. “Surely there are appropriate secular activities … that would not attempt to convert attendees to a particular religion.”

FFRF requested that the trip either be cancelled or adjusted so as to remove the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum from the planned stops.

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According to the organization, City Attorney Rachael Cunningham responded to the correspondence on Tuesday to advise that the event had been cancelled.

Ken Ham, learning of the matter, remarked on the situation on social media. He said that there is nothing wrong with a city organizing a trip to the ark as long as it is done in an objective manner.

“If groups are organized to come to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in an objective fashion, to show people the world-class exhibits and one group’s interpretation regarding the origin of earth history, the trip is fine as an exceptional and voluntary educational/cultural experience,” Ham wrote.

“Freedom From Religion Foundation atheists (like many liberals in politics) bully and threaten to impose their religion on the culture. Their anti-Christian zealotry results in grossly twisting the First Amendment to scare people with a total misinterpretation of the First Amendment,” he stated. “If people don’t have the courage to stand up to their bullying, we’ll continue to lose the free exercise of religion (especially Christianity) in this nation.”

He also shared a photograph from the FFRF website, which features staff standing under a sign that includes profanity.

U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster (1782-1852), who served under three presidents—William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Millard Fillmore—once declared, “If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be.”

“If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy. If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will. If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.”

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