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,”
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