Yesterday morning, about 9:30, my husband (henceforth referred to as D) and I reached the exit off I-275 in Kentucky (near Cincinnati) that leads to the Creation Museum, an offshoot of the organization Answers in Genesis. We were there to participate in the Rally for Reason, a gathering of reason- and science-minded individuals protesting the promotion of the creationists’ “young earth” myth as science.
I’ve included some of my photos here. You can see more on my Flickr page.
My personal desire to be part of the rally stemmed from my fear of the religious right’s attempts to force their beliefs on other Americans. School groups will probably be taken to this museum, where children will be exposed to the exhibits and propaganda as though they were equivalent to verifiable scientific truth — which they are not. I’ve read AIG’s pseudoscientific articles, and I’m appalled that so many Americans are willing to suspend all belief in the rational and instead contort the facts in their minds as much as necessary to fit into the narrow grooves prescribed by a literal reading of the book of Genesis.
So, there we were. As we approached the exit on I-275, we could see the museum from the highway. A police car was parked on the highway — the first of many, many police we saw. The Boone County police had clearly decided that they were taking no chances and that a continual presence was their best best at maintaining order.
When we reached the corner to turn to the museum, Rally for Reason volunteers were standing beside the road wearing orange vests; they directed us to the parking area about two miles away on the grounds of the First Farm Inn. (This is a lovely and elegant inn down a narrow, wooded country road. It was wonderful of them to let everyone park there.) We immediately noticed that most of the other cars were as decorated with stickers as ours. This must be more of a left-wing thing to do, because very few of the cars we saw entering the museum sported any stickers at all — lots of Christian fish symbols, and license plates reading 1Bible and GotJC, but not stickers. (The exception were a couple of cars that had stickers with an outline of a brontosaurus and the words “We’re taking dinosaurs back,” which I thought showed unusual cleverness.)
We were transported to the rally site in a van driven by a volunteer who travelled from Georgia. Shuttles ran all day as needed, so the distant parking wasn’t an issue. We took chairs and a bag with snacks and drinks. When we arrived it was clear that there weren’t as many people as I’d expected and hoped, but there were at least 100 coming and going throughout the day — enough to form a solid and constant presence along the road leading to the museum gates. I’m not sure whose land the rally was on, or if it was public property designated by Boone County. We were on a curve that people rounded just before turning left into the museum.
D is at far right:
The gates are topped with metal dinosaur outlines. However, there is no sign indicating that this is the Creation Museum, either here on the main entrance or outside the museum on I-275. I find this curious.
A table at the rally site provided materials for people to make signs. Signs were also available that had been made by representatives of DefCon and other sponsoring groups. (We made our sign at home.) Judging from the sign wording, the t-shirts, the pins, and so on, those in attendance were largely atheists (although not 100%). There wound up being at least four of us from our Unitarian Universalist church, and I would think there were probably people from the Cincinnati UU churches. (I’m curious what opinion of the museum is held by Christians who endorse evolution.)
We looked around at the materials on display, and then I joined the row on the road while D stood and listened to a speaker from Case Western Reserve. Various people spoke, some serious, some humorous. There was also 60’s-style protest rock from time to time, which provided an energetic backdrop for the sign-waving.
You can see the fence around the museum behind the tent:
Mostly, people were lined along the road, holding up their signs and waving at the cars driving by. Reactions from drivers were extremely mixed:
- Some refused to offer any recognition that anything or anyone was beside the road, driving by with stony faces and eyes fixed straight ahead.
- A few offered signs of agreement with us: thumbs-up, waving, horn-beeping.
- Many looked surprised, or interested, or amused, or annoyed. (I could hear in my head the comments that some of the parents were undoubtedly making to the kids in the back seat about the godless, hell-bound heathens. My inner response was to want to beg them to please not brainwash their children into believing this mythological travesty.)
- A surprising number of vehicle occupants — including drivers! — took pictures of us, both still and video. One man managed to drive the entire length of the rally with his video camera out the window, held with both hands; I’m not sure how he was steering. (Perhaps he let Jesus take the wheel.) Several times, large vans carrying 10-20 people went by, and almost every time the occupants were busily capturing us on film.
- Several women offered to pray for us. One drove slowly past, pointing to each sign-holder in turn, saying “I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray for you. …” Others shouted blanket prayer promises as they passed. Their prayers must have been busy last night.
- And then there were the truly negative responses, offered almost entirely by men. One man shouted angrily all the way down the line, “You’re stupid!” Another, equally incensed, shouted, “You’re morons! You’re all a bunch of morons!” Both their faces were contorted with genuine rage; both were distracted enough by their fury that they missed the turn into the museum and had to turn around. Both were clean-cut, professional-looking, middle-aged men driving nice cars. Who are these intolerant souls who surround us every day, and what would happen to our country if their furious inability to accept dissent was allowed to take charge?
- The most confusing response was offered by an African-American man who drove by shouting repeatedly at us that “Evolution is racism!” I’ve never heard such a statement before, and it makes no sense to me or D or others who were there.
- The response that I found most annoying came from woman of about 50, riding in the back seat of a car, who looked straight at me and my sign, shook her head, and waved her finger back and forth at me as if she were chastising a naughty child. Astonishing. Who did she think she was — and who did she think I was?
As I mentioned earlier, the police were a constant presence, driving back and forth every few minutes. A pair of officers on horseback also made an appearance. And, interestingly, the Boone County Sheriff himself spent much of the morning on site. He was dropped off at about 10:00, and he mingled pleasantly with the crowd, talking with the organizers, doing interviews with the press, and keeping an eye on things. (He was wearing a suit with his badge on his belt, not a uniform.) Around noon, a couple of museum proponents arrived and began a heated argument with a couple of rally attendees. I was watching, and as the volume level increased, both sides got very much in each others’ faces, but there was no physical contact. A little later, we heard that the woman had reported to police that she had been “assaulted” by someone from the rally — and the Sheriff, who was there, immediately let his officers know that it simply hadn’t happened. My opinion of the law’s dealings with the event is entirely positive: They made the rules and expectations crystal clear up front, they maintained a neutral presence, they communicated continually with the organizers, and in general they did their job in a professional manner.
The other constant presence was the press. Camera crews were roaming everywhere, interviewing organizers, speakers, and attendees. Standing next to me on the road was a girl of about 10, whose parents were involved with the rally (you can see her in the picture above); she was holding her sign high and waving at everyone who went by. The press were fascinated by her, and nearly every camera crew took her picture; she was even interviewed by a film crew from Switzerland, of all places. (I have a cousin who lives there, so I may have shown up on her news channel!)
We stayed until about 1:00, and then headed home. No, I don’t think we changed any minds, but we at least reminded all the museum attendees that not everyone believes as they do. We were very glad we went, to add our dissenting voices to the crowd and to be reminded that there are others who think as we do, even in Indiana and Kentucky. 🙂