I do not know why it is coming to light only now, but a few years ago a Kentucky elementary school rewarded students with “perfect” attendance by taking them on a field trip to the Creation “Museum.” Americans United has reported the story here, and a few days ago we received a press release from Daniel Phelps, a persistent critic of the Ark Park and the Creation Museum. Mr. Phelps has sent his press release to the Associated Press and elsewhere, but he tells us that he cannot get any reporter interested in investigating. We will reproduce his press release below the fold.
Americans United notes that the school’s definition of “perfect” is somewhat flexible, in that one absence counted as perfect. More importantly, they note
And kids have a right to learn about [certain religious concepts] - on their own time or in Sunday school. Such ideas are not appropriate for an official public school field trip, even if that trip was only offered to a handful of students. Instead, kids should be learning sound science - not religious dogma.
Mr. Phelps argues that the trip is “a clear violation of the separation of church and state” and “an act of educational malpractice.” He is concerned that, although this trip happened in 2012, there may be many like it, and he claims that Answers in Genesis “brags that they have stealth missionaries in the public school system.” Mr. Phelps’s entire press release follows.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 18, 2016
In a clear violation of the separation of church and state and as an act of educational malpractice, a public Kentucky elementary school had a field trip to the Creation Museum. In the spring of 2012, Southside Elementary School in Beattyville (Lee County), Kentucky gave their students with perfect attendance for the school year a field trip to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The school’s account of the trip can be found on the official Southside Elementary website here: http://www.lee.k12.ky.us/school_NewsArticle.aspx?artID=861&schoolID=16
The text of the website is included below this press release [PT has omitted that text].
In spite of calling itself a museum, the Creation Museum is actually an extension of the fundamentalist Christian ministry of Answers in Genesis. Among the more egregious of many pseudoscientific claims of the Creation Museum are that the Earth and universe are approximately 6000 years old, that the Earth’s geology is explained by Noah’s Flood in 2348 BC, and that 600 year old Noah had dinosaurs, some of which were fire-breathing dragons, on the Ark. Moreover, the museum has a strong fundamentalist Christian social message that denigrates non-Christians and Christians that accept the findings of modern science. Recently, the Creation Museum received a donation of dinosaur skeleton from a prominent Neo-Confederate white supremacist http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2014/05/dinosaur-fossil.html. See http://ncse.com/creationism/general/anti-museum-overview-review-answers-genesis-creation-museum for a review of much of the museum’s content.
According to Southside Elementary’s website, tickets to the event were arranged by Lee County School Board Chairman, Reverend William Owens. Reverend Owens is also pastor of the Bear Track Bible Church of Beattyville, Kentucky. Reverend Owens must not use his public office to evangelize students in Lee County Schools.
Other adults participating in, or arranging, the trip included Jody Bingham, a clerk at Southside Elementary; Ray Shuler, head of Transportation for Lee County Schools; and Greg Roberts, a mechanic for the Lee County Public Schools Bus Garage.
Although this incident happened in the spring of 2012, it may be the tip of the iceberg, as many Kentucky schools do not report their field trips on line. Answers in Genesis often brags that they have stealth missionaries in the public school system. For example see this AiG cartoon: https://answersingenesis.org/media/cartoons/after-eden/missionaries/
Hopefully, members of the press will further investigate if other Kentucky schools have made similar trips.