Mass. Town Paints Over Biblical Display on Playground Following Complaint

ASHBURNHAM, Mass. — Officials in Massachusetts have painted over a biblical children’s display on the grounds of a town-owned playground in Ashburnham following receipt of a letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

The atheist-led organization wrote a letter on July 22 after reportedly being contacted by “a concerned community member.”

It explained that a turning picture display on the playground tells the story of Noah’s ark, with photos on one side and text on the other.

“There once was a man named Noah who was warned by God of a great flood,” one of the turnabout sections reads. Another states,”It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and the whole earth was covered with water.”

FFRF asserted that the display was unconstitutional because it promoted religion on public property.

“Permitting this display as part of the library’s playground amounts to the city promoting its content, which runs afoul of the Establishment Clause,” it wrote in its letter. “The display of this biblical tale on public property confers government endorsement of religion. It endorses religion over nonreligion and Christianity over all other religions, which cannot stand.”

The group also argued that the government should not be using library property to tell Bible stories to “the most impressionable members of society.”

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“The [town] must remove this turning picture game from the playground and refrain from approving any such displays in the future,” FFRF requested.

Read the letter in full here.

According to the self-described Church-State separation group, Ashburnham Town Administrator Brian Doheny responded with a notification that the display had been blotted out with paint.

“In response to your letter, the town has painted over both sides of the display with white paint so that no symbolism is shown,” he wrote, thanking FFRF for notifying the town about the Noah’s ark story on the playground.

Doheny also provided a photograph of the display now completely covered with white paint.

FFRF not only praised the town’s actions but blasted biblical account and those who believe that a literal global flood took place as judgment for mankind’s immense and unrepentant wickedness.

“We’re pleased the town realized that allowing biblical preaching to children at a public institution isn’t in keeping with our nation’s secular ideals,” Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “Enlightened parents today regard the tale of Noah’s Ark — in which a barbarous deity mercilessly drowns nearly all human beings and other living things — as a totally inappropriate story to expose small children to. What makes it worse is that many Americans believe it is literally true.”

As previously reported, in 1828, just 41 years after the signing of the Constitution, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

He also wrote in his publication “Letters to a Young Man Commencing His Education”:

“Let it then be the first study of your early years to learn in what consists real worth or dignity of character. To ascertain this important point, consider the character and attributes of the Supreme Being. As God is the only perfect being in the universe, His character, consisting of all that is good and great, must be the model of all human excellence, and His laws must of course be the only rules of conduct by which His rational creatures can reach any portion of like excellence.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the playground is on the property of the Stevens Memorial Library, as had been written by FFRF in its press release, which also submitted a letter to the library to request that the display be removed. Christian News Network has since learned that the playground is not on library property.


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