Students from Brookville High School in Dayton, Ohio, will take an April 30 field trip to the Creation Museum, where they'll learn the earth is only 6,000 years old, humans and dinosaurs co-existed peacefully and the planet's creatures didn't evolve, they were created.
Brookville is one of three public schools planning field trips, or have already visited, the $27 million, Christian-themed museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF wants two of the schools to cancel planned trips, and wants the third to acknowledge it won't organize another student visit to the controversial museum.
"Public schools may not advance or promote religion," FFRF legal fellow Madeline Ziegler wrote in a letter to Nicholas Subashi, an attorney for the Brookville School District. "Bringing students on a field trip to a religious venue is a blatant promotion of religion."
Teaching the Creation Museum's Evangelical-inflected view of the world in classrooms wouldn't pass the separation of church and state test, the FFRF argues, so public schools shouldn't be permitted to organize official field trips there. While the schools say participation in the field trips is voluntary, the FFRF says that's "not a valid defense, since courts have summarily rejected arguments that voluntariness excuses constitutional violations."
The 40-acre museum, which includes everything from petting zoos to dinosaur topiaries and zen gardens, has been controversial since it first opened in 2007.
In 2010, on the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, Vanity Fair's A.A. Gill visited the museum and wrote about the experience. The museum, Gill wrote, is "devoted to the literal veracity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis: God created the world in six days, and the whole thing is no more than 6,000 years old."
"Everything came at once, so Tyrannosaurus rex and Noah shared a cabin. That’s an awful lot of explaining to do," Gill continued. "This place doesn’t just take on evolution—it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and good taste. It directly and boldly contradicts most -onomies and all -ologies, including most theology."
In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg calls the museum "a forward operating base in the conservative war against legalized abortion, gay marriage, and the belief that man is at least partially responsible for climate change."
But the devout and the museum's owner, Ken Ham, say their point of view is misunderstood and isn't treated fairly in the media.
In November, when Mythbusters' Adam Savage said the museum promotes "ideas that are so far off the mark they’re not even worth discussing," Ham challenged the reality TV star to visit the museum and speak with creationist biologists, astrophysicists and medical doctors who consulted on the project:
I challenge Adam Savage to make the short drive from Cincinnati and meet some true myth busters at the Creation Museum and see how his beliefs in evolution stand up against real observational science. In meeting with these academics and scientists, and touring our world-class museum with its stunning science exhibits, he will discover that evolution is a myth and gets busted for what it is - and he will learn the truth about the God who created him, that he has a sin nature, and is in need of salvation.