Ken Ham wants to argue that his fake boat is an objective part of a secular program of education

Ken Ham is pissed off. The FFRF has been telling local schools that field trips to the Creation “Museum” and Ark Park are violations of the separation of church and state, and that they don’t get to pretend that going to a religious venue has a secular purpose. Ham insists that public schools trooping their students off to his exercise in bibliolatry is not unconstitutional.

As leading civil rights attorneys will tell you, if classes tour the Ark or museum in an objective fashion to supplement the teaching of world religions, literature, interpretation of history, etc., the field trip is an educational experience. Now, if students were brought to the Ark or museum and told by their teacher that the religious content should be accepted as truth, then we would acknowledge that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution would be violated.

As educators are aware, however, it is well established in the law that the Bible may be used in the classroom objectively, as part of a secular program of education. As long as the teacher doesn’t express a personal opinion about the Bible, there is no issue whatsoever.

This is a weird argument. So a teacher could take their class to a church service, and as long as they kept a straight face and didn’t say whether the hour-long ceremony they sat through wasn’t true, they’re off the hook? It’s just a secular fact-finding expedition? I call bullshit.

The entire purpose of those AiG carnival shows is to tell visitors that their “literal” interpretation of the Bible is true, that the scientific evidence must be reinterpreted biblically, and that science is wrong. They can’t seriously propose that their stuff is not religious and evangelical. I guess we already know that honesty isn’t one of the things AiG practices, though, so that’s not going to stop Ham from this grand lie.

But I’m not a lawyer. I actually have problems with trying to block creationists on purely Constitutional grounds of the separation of church and state, although I know that’s often been the bulwark of our defense against creationist incursions into the schools.

You ought not to take students to the Ark Park because it’s pseudo-science and flagrant science denialism. Why would you trek across the state to some obscure caricature of a “museum” where your students will be intentionally misinformed when you could go to the Kentucky Science Center or the Cincinnati Museum Center? Are you a responsible educator who looks for the best opportunities to teach, or are you a hack who drags kids off to irrelevant tourist traps where dogma won’t be challenged?

Jesus, I see stories about religious kooks a thousand miles away organizing bus trips to that garbage site, when they could be going to the Field Museum or the AMNH or the Smithsonian instead. It makes no sense. It’s not as if great science opportunities aren’t available all around the country, so you have no recourse but to go to a bad freak show and make up stories about how you’re exposing them to secular interpretations of science.

Ken Ham is just a con artist.


  1. says

    As I understand it, he’s arguing that it’s ok to teach about religion in schools, which it is, and as part of a class teaching kids how dumb fundie Christianity is a trip to the park would not be out of bounds.

    I think the problem they’d run into is that in order to not privilege one religion over another they would have to find a multimillion dollar Islamic boondoggle to visit as well, and a Hindu one etc. Which might prove hard to find.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    teaching religion, silently, straight faced, is NOT teaching of Religion. Ham is trying to confuse the two into synonymous phrases.
    I prefer reading the Bible and examining the meaning/interpretation of each phrase with reference to the history of the time. Without all the reverence of prayer service. Use the book to illustrate how these people envision their concept of god, and present it as a true depiction of god that all must worship.
    Ham is garbling the meaning of the Constitution to slip through our fingers of rationality and justice.

  3. mnb0 says

    ” if ….. in an objective fashion”
    That’s exactly the problem, isn’t it? An objective fashion would mean that the following people were involved: a physicist, a chemist, a biologist, a geologist, a historian of Antiquity (and I don’t mean the ones approved by Ol’Hambo, but the ones who accept methodological naturalism) and even a theologian who accepts theistic evolution to point out all the flaws and stupidities in the displays and texts. But of course when Ol’Hambo uses the word “objective” he means “agreeing with his personal interpretation of the Bible”.

  4. Larry says

    Taking students to the ark park as an exercise in secular education is like taking culinary school students to MickyDs as an exercise in classical cooking techniques.

  5. Sastra says

    Ham seems to think visiting his “museum” is like visiting the zoo. Students are going to approach the exhibits not to learn from what they say, but to learn what they are.

    “Now, children, here is a Creationacanus Australasian, a strange beast that feeds on faith and lies. There are people that keep this ideology in their homes as a pet.”


  6. unclefrogy says

    he is fighting for one of his more reliable source of funding, school trips, if it ever goes to court he will probably fail. he is clutching at straws to delay the inevitable failure and liquidation.
    uncle frogy

  7. zetopan says

    “Ken Ham is just a con artist.”

    Which does not in any way actually distinguish Ham from any other sacred superstition peddler.

  8. anbheal says

    I was in a NASA-funded science and foreign language curriculum from 4th through 8th grade, and we had a comparative religion course in 7th grade. We went to a Catholic church, a Congregationalist, an Episcopalian, a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, a Universalist-Unitarian, the Greek Orthodox church, and the three synagogues in the city, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Basically, pretty much every religious building that any of the kids in the class attended. We also learned about Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, etc., but there may have been no buildings to visit for those. One of the home-room teachers was a Mormon, and he came and gave us a lecture. At the end of which he said “it really doesn’t matter where you go on Sunday morning, it’s how you behave the rest of the week.” And he was a very sweet little dork in a bow-tie and sweater-vest, impeccably behaved the rest of the week.

    I think we all found it quite interesting, field trips are never to be sneezed at, and in particular the Jewish girls seemed please that they were getting equal time and importance allocated to them, in a largely Irish, Italian, Greek, and black city. But I can’t remember a single religious figure in any of the churches or temples proselytizing. It was more along the lines of telling the Irish and Italian boys: “we don’t venerate the Virgin, nor accept the authority of the Pope, that’s the main difference”, or “we have presbyters, not priests, to connect us with The Almighty”, or “we believe in God, but we don’t really go for the Trinity with Jesus and The Holy Spirit”.

    I have fond memories of all the good-spirited men and women who chatted with us about their belief systems. And, well, elephant gods and ladies with lots of arms and extra eyeballs — what’s not to like? We also did Greek and Roman and Norse. Those cats didn’t fuck around. Apollo and Hermes seemed pretty cool. Aphrodite was always showing her boobs.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re dropped an important negation @2.
    correction follows:

    Use the book to illustrate how these people envision their concept of god, and NOT present it as a true depiction of god that all must worship.

    thank you

  10. methuseus says

    My aunt and uncle went to the Ark park from an invitation, I’m not sure if it was through their local church or what. But they went there, rather than the Field Museum. The Field is less than an hour away from their house. The Ark park required them to spend a few days in hotels. If they’d spent the same amount of money going to the Field they would have had so much more information to go through and learn than the Ark park could have possibly shared with them. It boggles my mind…

  11. methuseus says

    As an aside, reading PZ mentioning the Field made me remember than, every time I visit, I just want to camp out for a week or more, just so I can get a chance to see every one of their public exhibits. And wishing I could see some of their non-public stuff that they’re studying or just don’t have the room to display.