Editor’s Note: Jeff Gruban and Nancy Weisz from the The Abbotsford Atheist, Skeptic, and Humanist group expressed some concern recently about the appearance of Creation Truth Ministries as an Attraction at this year’s AgriFair.
Their concern was based on the fact that the group was hired as an Attraction at the publicly supported fair to the exclusion of other religious beliefs and/or philosophical points of view.
Says Jeff Gruban, “Since the City of Abbotsford paid $90,000 to support this event some of our tax dollars essentially went toward bringing Creation Truth Ministries in this year. They are an admittedly Christian organization that teaches Christian theology and doctrines. I agree they have the right to attend this event and present their ideas. This should be done at their own expense not that of the City and the taxpayers. Many of the taxpayers in Abbotsford are not Christians.
“Agrifair is a wonderful event that has been a welcome addition to the Abbotsford community for years. It seems to me that the City of Abbotsford has indirectly supported the teaching of Creationism with taxpayer funds. I think it is inappropriate for the city to support a specific religious viewpoint.*”
When asked by Abbotsford Today about Gruban’s concerns, the City of Abbotsford’s City Manager, George Murray said,”The Agri fair Society received a Council approved fee for service contribution of $90,000 from the City of Abbotsford in 2013. Agri fair is an independent Society over which the City has no jurisdiction and, as with all independent organizations, the City does not participate and cannot influence any fund raising activities that Agri fair may undertake.”
While Murray is absolutely correct as it pertains to fund raising activities, such as the Exhibitors who pay to be at Agrifair, his argument may not hold up when it comes to Attractions, which are organizations paid by AgriFair to appear.
Gruban and Weisz have spoken to AgrFair about the issue and were told that the representative of Creation Truth Ministries had offered to waive his fees in order to attend but would require $1,000 in travel expenses. An unidentified individual member of the board of The Agri fair Society reportedly paid those expenses out of his own pocket.
They were also given assurances it wouldn’t happen again.
So; no taxpayer funds were actually spent on the appearance of the organization, which may have saved the City from being involved in a messy legal controversy, but Christian Truth Ministries was offered an opportunity not offered to other religious organizations or other organizations representing other points of view.
Regardless of the legalities which may or may not to let the City off the hook, the question remains whether or not it is appropriate, whether by paying them or allowing them to appear for free, for a City-supported activity to bring in one religious organization and, in effect allow it to promote itself to the exclusion of other religious or faith-based organizations.
The board member’s offer to pay for one Attraction’s travel expenses might make other attractions ask why their travel expenses were not paid.
The fact Agrifair is an agricultural event makes the religious teachings of Creation Truth Ministries stand out all the more.
We are anxious to hear your thoughts on this issue. As Abbotsford moves forward it is becoming more and more clear that a great many legal questions are being raised about the way the City has conducted its business. As more and more legal challenges to the City’s actions are raised, the possibility that the City’s focus will shift to paying for or defending past decisions rather than focusing on a difficult future may become a serious concern.
What do you think? Is it appropriate for the City government to allow a particular religious organization to appear as an Attraction at a publicly funded community event such as AgrFair.
Gerda Peachey has raised serious concerns about the appearance of girls in underwear playing football at the Abbotsford Entertainment centre (AESC) and the annual Taboo Sex Show at Tradex – both publicly-funded buildings.
Does the City need to pay more attention to what third parties are doing with taxpayer funds?
To start the discussion we have published below a column by Today Media co-owner, president of the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) and council candidate in the last municipal election.
By Vince Dimanno. This column is in two parts. The first part is a statement I have to make about how a specific exhibitor was brought to AgriFair this year. That exhibitor, Creation Truth Ministries promotes thinking that is very dangerous to our community. The first part of this column focuses on the decision to bring them here, but the second part focuses on why this group is a threat to the success of our City.
Part One: Creationists and AgriFair
So, what is the problem with AgriFair having a booth occupied by a group that believes in Creationism? The answer is nothing. I will be the first to protect a person’s right to free speech. If I were to decry the Creationists I would also need to bar other belief systems and very quickly we would find ourselves in a situation like Quebec where their only option is to legislate prejudice.
A free society is the foundation piece upon which the words you are reading right now become possible. There are many places in this world where Mike and I would never be allowed to have a web site like this, or say the things we do.
Therefore I will protect the right to free speech on behalf of the Creation Truth Ministries.
But wait … this is different.
AgriFair is a community event that receives a huge amount of funding from the City of Abbotsford. Your tax dollars … $90,000 of them … are given to AgriFair and that means AgriFair has an obligation. That obligation is to spend that money responsibly.
The Creation Truth Ministries were not only invited to come to AgriFair (note that they are not from Abbotsford), but they were paid to do so. Likely you know that it was the personal money from member of the Board of Directors of AgriFair that put up the cash…and this fact is supposed to make it look like tax dollars weren’t used.
The problem with this is two-fold.
Firstly; the member of the Board that used his own money, is also in charge of spending your tax dollars.
Secondly; it is that connection to our money that no longer means that Creation Truth Ministries is practicing free speech. Rather they are being endorsed as credible by an organization responsible for handling your money.
If you’ve read my columns you know I don’t sit idly by when people lie to you. When those lies are funded with tax dollars then I think it is my obligation to scream the truth.
However, before I inject some actual science into this conversation, I want to make something very clear….
You can do what you want with your own personal money AgriFair Director, but supporting an organization that demands you suspend every law of physics, every law of human biology and denies the basic rules our universe operates upon, means that you are unfit to handle our tax dollars. While I can make no recommendation to City Council about future funding, I can give you some advice. All requests for funding from the City will be reviewed each time they are made. In the future, you may encounter a City Council that is truly concerned that community events contain exhibitors that are not focused on misleading people. This is really a nice friendly bit of advice. However, if it is discovered that a single penny of tax dollars was spent on bringing this exhibitor to AgriFair that same City Council may feel that you should no longer receive any funding whatsoever.
Just some friendly advice from someone who lives in the “real” world.
Part Two: Is Creation Truth Ministries Truly Dangerous?
This part is actually for my fellow nerds. Enjoy!
Almost every single minute of our daily lives now relies on science. Science invented everything from electricity for the light we see by, to the machines that manufacture the clothing we wear. Science created our cars, our computers, our cell phones and our TVs.
All of these inventions are possible because our universe operates by a very strict set of laws. Creation Truth Ministries asks that you deny those laws exist.
As a society, we need engineers, we need scientists, we need agro-researchers ….we need innovators who will solve the problems of deforestation, hunger, overpopulation and energy shortages and those people will all need to believe in science and the laws by which the universe is governed.
Let’s look at some of the ideas that Creation Truth Ministries promotes:
- Noah’s Ark is a true story – there was an estimated 2 billion species on the planet during Noah’s time….resulting in a need to collect 4 billion specimens… the size of Noah’s Ark would need to be thousands and thousands of times bigger than that described in order to accommodate that number. Further, it would have taken Noah thousands of years to collect all those specimens. Perhaps you think a miracle made it all possible? What about afterwards? When the animals left the Ark, they all seemed to know where to go. All the marsupials went to Australia. Why didn’t any of them stop and live in India or China? How come all the penguins went to the South Pole when it was just as hospitable for them at the North Pole? The reason is that they never came from the Ark. In fact, parallel evolution and differentiation as soon between Australian marsupials and similar placental animals in North America is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for Evolution available. The laws of our universe and of the natural world tell us that Noah’s Ark could never have accomplished what it claims.
- Dinosaurs and men walked the earth together – for this to be true you have to believe that both the fossil record is false and that carbon (radioisotope) dating is false. Commonly, it is claimed that the fossil record is incomplete…but it is not. If you would like, I can take you on a tour of the facilities that house an almost unbroken fossil record going back 50,000 years. “Almost unbroken” is a term I use for accuracy as there are moments in time for which there are no fossils, but, to put those in perspective for you, that would be the equivalent to the amount of time lost if I were to ask you to watch a clock for an hour. Each time you blink and you don’t see the clock move does not mean time has stopped. A similar amount of fossil record is “missing”. If you think fossils don’t have the answer it is because you refuse to simply go where the fossils are and look for yourself.Those fossils are dated using a method often referred to as “carbon dating”. This method of dating has been challenged by non-scientists many times. The problem here is that we have 8 methods of dating an object using half life decay rates. Let me explain that. Certain elements decay at a predictable rate. Some are very quick and you can actually watch this decay happen with your own eyes. Others take a very long time, and we use those to measure the age of something very old. You actually hear about this every single day on the news….just in reverse. When the US is talking to Iran about their nuclear “enrichment” programs, they are talking about adding neutrons to an atom thereby enriching it. That atom, over a predictable amount of time, will eject that neutron and this is the decay process I am talking about. This science is very, very simple and to deny “carbon dating” is to deny the way the elements of our universe interact with one another.
- The earth is only a few thousand years old – Generally, young earth creationists believe that if you add up all the ages of the people that lived through the bible that you get the age of the earth. This is about 10,000 to 12,000 years old. After reading the above, it is pretty obvious that this isn’t true. There are lots of ways to prove this. Science is even getting better at it. We used think that the earth was 4.5 billion years old, but actually it is 4.6 billion. Our methods of measuring radioisotope decay are improving and so is the accuracy of our aging of the earth.
But I started this section by saying you would have to suspend your belief in the universe in order to believe in what the Creation Truth Ministries promotes and that is dangerous to our success as a community and as a species. To illustrate that I would like to turn your attention to the stars.
When you look up, what do you see? A wondrous sight full of stars I hope. Some of the light you see coming from those other stars began its journey from more than 5 billion light years away. That means that it started its journey before the Earth actually formed. We measure the age of our universe with some pretty sophisticated instruments today (http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/) and we estimate it to be 13.7 billion +-0.2 billion years old. The math that generates this estimate is pretty simple. It is an estimate but it is not an estimate where the alternative number is 12,000 years old.
So, if you believe the earth is only 12,000 years old then when you look into the night sky, you must also believe that everything you see is a lie. When those stars send us light from more than 5 billion light years away, you have to believe that God created those light photons in mid-air and that he did so to trick us. You have to believe that the four forces of the universe are a lie and that the laws of gravity, electro-magnetism and strong and weak nuclear force are all made up to fool us.
If this is so then every sight you see, the force holding you firmly on the ground, and every single molecule in your universe is a lie.
Folks, the universe doesn’t lie to you. Only people do that. Abbotsford Today is founded on the idea that we will bring you the truth, the whole truth … no matter how uncomfortable it may be. We won’t let politicians lie to you and we apply that effort to any corner of our community where your best interests are not being protected by your civic leaders.
Go back outside and look up at the night sky again. God created a wonderful universe for us. To ensure we appreciate it, He connected us all together by making us out of stardust. Some particles in your body may actually have one day existed as part of one of the stars you see when you look up. That wonderful truth is based on the laws of our universe being true. Thinking that dinosaurs lived at the same time as men doesn’t even make for a good movie.
If you would like more columns on science topics, please leave a comment below.
*From Church, State, and Charter:Canada’s Hidden Establishment Clause by Jeremy Patrick
Government neutrality in religious affairs is a recurring concern. For
example, three judges of the Supreme Court of Canada recently wrote that:
one particular religion . . . The state must respect a variety of
faiths whose values are not always easily reconciled. . . . As a
general rule, the state refrains from acting in matters relating to
religion. It is limited to setting up a social and legal framework
in which beliefs are respected and members of the various
denominations are able to associate freely in order to exercise
their freedom of worship . . . In this context, the principle of
neutrality must be taken into account in assessing the duty of
public entities, such as municipalities, to actively help religious
Similarly, lower court judges have stated that “Canada is a secular state,
with freedom of religion,”114 that “[t]o prefer one religion over another . . .
contravenes the provisions of the Charter relating to freedom of conscience and
religion,”115 that the Charter “would certainly prevent any instrument of the
State from establishing an official religion or discriminating against a particular
religion,”116 and that “[t]he separation of church and state is a fundamental
principle of our Canadian democracy and our constitutional law.”117