July 13, 2016
Ark Encounter: Public Schools Warned About Taking Field Trips To Noah's Ark Park

The Ark Encounter, an amusement park featuring a 500-foot replica of Noah's Ark, opened earlier this month in Williamstown, Kentucky, and has been a controversial topic ever since.

Many believe the new attraction violates the separation of church and state, and now the officials with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that opposes the ark, is warning public schools in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia about taking field trips to visit the Ark Encounter, which was created by Answers in Genesis -- the same Christian organization that runs the Petersburg Creation Museum.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, the organization's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said they had already sent over 1,000 letters to the school districts in the above mentioned states. She also added that the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Madison, Wisconsin-based group, had already received calls from concerned parents who are worried field trips to the Ark Encounter will be scheduled.

"That would be completely inappropriate," Gaylor told the newspaper. "This is an attempt to proselytize children. The public school is to educate, not indoctrinate."

In response to the organization's letter, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt sent a letter of his own saying that neither the Kentucky Department of Education, or any outside groups, should have a say in what field trips the schools decide to take. However, he did add that all school trips should be directly related to what they are learning in the classroom. In addition, all field trips must be approved by the Site-Based Decision Making Council, which is made up of the principal, teachers, parents, and local school boards.

"It is important to remind educators that at all times and under all circumstances, field trips should be a direct extension of classroom learning," Pruitt said. "As a result, all off-site trips should be directly related to the school curriculum and should seek to maximize student learning by enhancing the classroom experience."

According to the Ark Encounter's website, the replica is a full-size Noah's Ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible.

"Spanning 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high, this modern engineering marvel amazes visitors young and old. Ark Encounter is situated in the beautiful Williamstown, Kentucky, halfway between Cincinnati and Lexington on I-75. From the moment you turn the corner and the towering Ark comes into view, to the friendly animals in the zoo, to the jaw-dropping exhibits inside the Ark, you'll experience the pages of the Bible like never before."
Answers in Genesis was also made aware of the letter that was sent to the school districts from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. On their official website, the Christian-based group issued a statement of their own.

"While AiG has never advocated that creation or intelligent design be mandated in public schools, we point out that instructors already possess the academic freedom to bring both sides of an important issue to their students if they so choose," the website reads. "It's a sad sign of the times as we recognize that atheists are allowed to bully school officials to maintain the dominance of secular, naturalistic teaching in the classroom. Indeed, many of the culture battles against Christianity are being conducted in government-run schools."

"With the mantra 'separation of church and state' (not found in the U.S. Constitution), secularists insist that virtually any mention of Christianity and the Bible is wrong in the classroom. It's just more of the same old bullying tactics we have grown accustomed to seeing from groups like the FFRF. They have a deep hatred for biblical truths and want to keep others from being exposed to them."
Do you think public schools should be allowed to take field trips to visit the Ark Encounter? Leave your comments below.

[Photo by AP Photo/John Minchillo]