An atheist college student who visited the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., with the Secular Student Alliance on Friday was asked to leave after allegedly offending other guests.
Derek Rogers, who was touring the 70,000-square foot museum with around 300 scientists, students, and secularists from the SSA, had earlier been "harangued" by a museum official for "making fun of things and laughing" with the group he came with, according to his account of the visit.
He was later asked to turn inside-out a T-shirt he was wearing that stated "There Probably Is No God."
"I said, 'Look, I didn't realize that was against your policy. I disagree, obviously, but if it means you're going to kick me out of the museum, I'll go to the bathroom and change my T-shirt.' So I did that," Rogers recalled in a video posted on YouTube.
The final straw was broken not longer after when the computer science major at Dalhouise University in Nova Scotia, Canada, was talking to some people and, by his account, said, "You know, I already spent money on food, and I feel bad enough about that. I wouldn't want to buy anything in here because I don't want to give them any more money."
Reportedly, Rogers' comments were loud enough to "ruin" the vacation of a family that had traveled from Virginia to see the exhibit and prompted one final warning from Mark Looy, co-founder of the apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis, which operates the museum.
Rogers, however, chose to exit the museum.
"I'm like, 'OK. I'm exiting right now.' And he (Looy)'s pulling me aside to tell me this. And then when I start responding to the allegations he's making against me, he goes 'Well you were exiting anyway, why don't you keep exiting,'" he recalled.
"When we agreed to the policy to come here, it said nothing about not making fun of exhibits," Rogers said.
Notably, however, in a letter sent to Dr. Paul "PZ" Myers and the SSA, Creation Museum Security Manager David Blaylock had warned the group against engaging 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," Blaylock wrote in the letter advising the group on the museum's standard policies and requirements concerning guest behavior.
The letter was sent after Creation Museum staff received news of the planned visit to the museum by the group of more than 240 persons, "many of whom have posted comments on your Pharyngula blog ridiculing [Creation Museum founder] 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."
The $27-million museum, which first opened to the public on May 28, 2007, is well known and criticized within some camps for its literal interpretation of the Bible. Packed with high-tech exhibits that include animatronic dinosaurs and a huge wooden ark, the Cincinnati-area museum attempts to align the Bible's literal account of creation with natural history. The museum's staff and founder, like many other Young Earth creationists, believe dinosaurs appeared on the same day God created other land animals.
Despite the controversies, the museum has been relatively successful, having drawn more than 700,000 guests since its opening. It has also been continually expanding, with several new exhibits and events planned for this year, including an "ape-man" exhibit to bring attention to the fallacies of Darwinian evolution.
The success is not surprising as 44 percent of U.S. adults would qualify as Young Earth creationists, agreeing to the statement that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years," according to a 2008 Gallup poll.
And of the 50 percent who agreed with the statement "human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life," 55 percent held a view of "naturalistic evolution," in which no God took part in the evolutionary process, while 40 percent believe that God guided the process over millions of years.
On average, the Creation Museum each day drew around 900 people last year - a 20 percent drop from the year before.
According to Inside Science News Service, 304 people from the SSA showed up Friday at the museum as part of the group's 9th Annual National Conference, though the SSA had expected around 260.
Though the group was large, Myers insisted Saturday that all of the atheists were "well behaved and civil," that the only behavior the museum staff could possibly have complained about their "quiet criticism," and that the only bad behavior was by people like Looy and the "noticeably edgy security guards, who we could tell were looking for an excuse to throw all the people laughing at their joke of a 'museum' out."
After the incident, the noted atheist and biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) also said Looy "ironically" asked to take a picture with him.
"I let him, of course, but I expect they'll also use it to let their security know who I am, in case I should make future invasions," he concluded.
But Myers said a future visit was "not likely."
"I think I got enough," he stated.