Reactions to Ark Encounter opening
A week after a secularist foundation warned public school officials against taking kids to the newly opened Noah’s Ark, the attraction’s creator offered a new incentive: $1 admission for every public school student on a school-sponsored field trip and free admission for their teachers.
In a blog post Wednesday, Ken Ham, the co-founder of Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, argued that the Freedom From Religion Foundation was wrong to warn more than 1,000 school districts in Kentucky and around the region that public school field trips to the Ark violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
“Actually, FFRF is undermining or encouraging the violation of the First Amendment by bullying school districts with this threat,” Ham wrote in a post titled “Stand up to FFRF Bullies!”
“Their usual threatening technique is to try to intimidate people to do what FFRF wants — not what the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees!”
The regular admission price to the Williamstown tourist attraction is $40 for adult and $28 for children. Ark officials said they hope to have group rates announced by the end of summer. They have said they expect numerous home schools and Christian schools to visit.
“I think that just underlines our caution to thousands of schools in the area,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, the foundation’s co-president said Thursday. “This shows what he’s doing is inappropriate — he wants to proselytize to a captive audience, and that is totally inappropriate for public school students.”
Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a letter Monday telling districts to make sure they have field trip policies at both the school and district levels. Principals usually approve field trips at the school level.
Legal experts and educators said public schools could visit the Ark only for educational purposes, such as a carpentry class or a comparative religion class.
The Ark is a 500-foot wooden boat featuring numerous exhibits that explain Ham’s views of an Earth that is only 6,000 years old, as described in the Bible’s Book of Genesis. The Ark depicts Noah and his family on board the ship, along with animals and dinosaurs that Ham believes coexisted with early mankind.