The Secular Student Alliance received an email this morning from the Creation Museum regarding the horde of rationalists who will be visiting in a few weeks. It was addressed to us and PZ Myers.
PZ posted it on his site earlier. The SSA wanted to clear up a few things up with the museum before putting it up on our site. More on that in a bit.
First, here’s the letter that comes via Mark Looy, the Chief Communications Officer, at the museum:
Dear Dr. Paul (“P.Z.”) Myers and the SSA:
As the Security Manager for the Department of Public Safety at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, I am writing in regard to your planned visit to the museum, along with those associated with the group called the Secular Student Alliance, scheduled for August 7, 2009.
The purpose of this letter is to advise you of our standard policies and requirements concerning guest behavior.
Succinctly stated, and posted on signs at a number of locations at the museum premises, is the following notice:
The Creation Museum is private property, an outreach of Answers in Genesis. Guests at the museum are expected to conduct themselves in a polite, respectful manner at all times. Loud, disrespectful, destructive, obscene, or abusive behavior will not be tolerated, and may result in your removal from the premises. Please be courteous to other guests, security personnel, and our staff while you are here. Thank you!
Also, please be advised that vehicles and all packages, bags, and articles may be subject to inspection when on the premises or when entering or leaving the premises.
In reviewing your blog and website at http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula, we have observed a number of hostile, crude, and profane comments that suggest that some in the SSA group may be using your visit as an opportunity to engage in demonstrations, mocking behavior, wearing offensive clothing, or in other conduct that would be offensive to our staff and to other guests. We note, for example, that you have written that you urge the group to wear “godless clothing.”
We understand that your group (which you have described as a “horde” or “mob”) will consist of over 200 persons, many of whom have posted comments on your Pharyngula blog ridiculing Ken Ham and the Creation Museum, using profane language, and some are indicating that it is their intent to conduct themselves in a manner that is provocative, overtly homosexual in behavior, or otherwise socially unacceptable for guests of this privately owned Christian facility. As I’m sure you’re aware, some of those statements reference intentions to be “loud” and also to wear “armbands” and T-shirts or other clothing with images or wording that would be considered offensive to our staff and others at the museum. Such conduct will not be tolerated.
The Creation Museum is a privately owned facility; there is no legal right to engage in demonstrations, to harass or insult other guests, staff members, or speakers, or to otherwise engage in conduct that would be disruptive or rude. Again, such actions will not be permitted.
So long as you and the SSA group are willing to abide by our policies requiring civil behavior at all times, to include being respectful of others and of our facilities, then you will be welcome as our guests; but if you do not intend to abide by these policies, then please cancel your visit to the Creation Museum.
We request your acknowledgment of receipt of this letter and your agreement to abide by these policies.
We note that, unlike the exchanges posted on the Pharyngula site, communications from Lyz Laddell [sic] of the Secular Student Alliance have generally been polite and respectful, which we appreciate.
We remain willing to host you and the SSA group, provided you assure us that your party will remain civil and abide by our policies and that you have addressed those who have expressed contrary intentions for their visit. We request the courtesy of receiving your written response prior to your arrival. If we do not receive your written assurance that your party will abide by our policies, we will have no choice but to turn your group away at the entrance.
Department of Public Safety
cc: John Pence, Esq.
Lots to talk about…
First of all, the SSA will take full measures to make sure no one in our group is being rude or disruptive. We’ll put out a statement tomorrow. We’ll try to bring extra “non-offensive” t-shirts just in case, but I would advise students to bring a change of clothes if they aren’t sure their clothing is allowed. (If you have to question whether your shirt is offensive, it’s probably offensive.)
I hope those in our group have no plans to do anything crazy. It would just give the Creationists something to use in their fundraising letters. If we’re civil and polite during our visit, we’ll look good, and others will take note.
I know it’ll be tough to hold in some emotions and frustration. I’ve been there before and some of the exhibits just makes you want to scream. They are not just anti-science, they’re anti-gay, anti-birth-control, etc. But we must remain civil while on their property.
Once our visit is complete, we’ll have plenty of time to tear apart (and talk about) everything we saw inside using our words and our computers.
Ok, back to the letter. When I first read it, these were my questions:
- What constitutes “offensive” clothing?
- What is “overtly homosexual” behavior? I doubt anyone plans to perform sodomy next to the dinosaurs… but what about a kiss? Holding hands?
- What’s wrong with armbands?
I would also like to know if I can wear a t-shirt with this image of a kid pointing a gun on it:
It comes from Answers in Genesis (the group behind the museum), so it must be ok, right?
The SSA staff sent a letter back to the Creation Museum people. It was incredibly polite (maybe too polite) and raised these questions and others.
Mark Looy said that shirts that insult others or show R-rated material (to sum it up) are not allowed. Science shirts should be ok, but we’ll follow up on this… OUT Campaign shirts and SSA shirts are allowed.
I know that’s vague, but we’ll follow up with your questions, so feel free to leave them in the comments.