A Massachusetts town has painted over a Noah’s ark display following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a well-known atheist organization.
The playground at Stevens Memorial Library located in the town of Ashburnham had featured a turning picture game containing verses and images from the story of Noah’s Ark. After complaints from FFRF that claimed the display violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the town painted over the biblical story.
Madeline Ziegler, a staff attorney with the atheist group, sent a letter to the director of the library in late July on behalf of a “concerned community member.”
“Each section of the turning game contains a passage from the tale of Noah’s Ark. The sections are paraphrased from the book of Genesis in order to be more easily understood,” the letter reads.
Ziegler’s letter said that “permanent displays on public land are government speech.”
As a result, the “display of this biblical tale on public property confers government endorsement” of a particular religion. She said the display privileges “one religion over others.”
In addition, Ziegler demanded that the library “remove this turning picture game” from the premises. She also asked the library to “refrain from approving such displays” moving forward. Shortly after, the town of Ashburnham responded to the request.
“Thank you for bringing this matter to the town’s attention. In response to your letter, the town has painted over both sides of the display. The white paint [ensures] no symbolism is shown,” Ashburnham Town Administrator Brian Doheny wrote in an email.
As a result, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor praised the town’s decision. “We’re pleased the town realized that allowing biblical preaching to children at a public institution isn’t in keeping with our nation’s secular ideals.”
In 2014, a similar Noah’s ark playground display was at the center of a controversy in Newark, Delaware. The Delaware Valley Americans United filed a complaint with the city over the biblical exhibit.
“DVAU received citizen complaints from some atheist grandparents who did not want their grandchildren to see the Bible verses or the cartoon rendition of the Noah’s Ark story,” DVAU vice president Janice Rael said.
Not unlike the incident in Massachusetts, the complaint alleged that the display “violated the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution.” Not long after the group filed the grievance, the city of Newark removed the display.