Noah’s Ark Display Removed from New Jersey Playground After Complaint from Atheist Group

This display depicting the story of Noah's Ark was removed from the playground at Handloff Park after a local atheist group complained to the city. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AU)
This display depicting the story of Noah’s Ark was removed from the playground at Handloff Park after a local atheist group complained to the city. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AU)

After receiving a complaint, the city has removed a piece of playground equipment at Handloff Park that depicted the story of Noah’s Ark.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, filed the complaint on behalf of a local atheist organization.

The display was a clear violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, argued Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for AU.

“Nobody should have to choose between not going to a public playground or having their children exposed to religious messages,” he said.

Part of a larger piece of equipment in the Barksdale Road park, the display consisted of nine plastic cylinders mounted on rods that spin. Decals on one side depicted animals found on Noah’s Ark, while the other side consisted of text that told the Biblical story in child-friendly terms.

The feature is often found on playgrounds, but the decals usually depict tic-tac-toe pieces or other educational materials.

City spokesman Ricky Nietubicz said he did not know when or why the equipment was installed in Handloff Park, noting he was unaware of the Biblical display until the city received the complaint on Oct. 16.

After consulting with City Solicitor Bruce Herron, parks and recreation employees removed the display last week.

“It was pretty obvious Christian messaging,” Nietubicz said. “We had no problem removing it.”

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SOURCE: Newark Post Online
Josh Shannon

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