After the state-funded New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) in Albuquerque collaborated with atheist groups to organize various events on Darwin Day in June 2014, religious taxpayers criticized the government for endorsing a particular religious belief, namely atheism, and not others. Above all, the NMMNHS attempted to cover up its collaboration with atheist groups like Humanist Society and Freedom from Religion.
After New Mexico resident James Campbell, who holds a PhD in physics, saw flyers of the museum’s collaboration with atheist groups being distributed around the state, he filed an inquiry an inquiry with Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico.
“Is it appropriate for a state-funded museum to join forces with organizations such as the Humanist Society and the Freedom from Religion group to promote an anti-religious agenda? The agenda for the NMMNH[S] program on Darwin includes a talk by Ron Herman from Freedom from Religion, Albuquerque, who will compare science and religion to decide which is ‘false or corrupt and dangerous.’ It seems unlikely that he will conclude that science is ‘false or corrupt and dangerous.’ Jerry Gilbert of the Humanist Society of New Mexico will make a presentation in which he will talk about ‘religious extremists.’ Are these appropriate presentations to be sponsored by the State of New Mexico through its Museum of Natural History and Science?” he asked.
While the above lectures were scheduled for February 12th, after receiving Campbell’s letter, the museum’s staff distanced themselves from the lectures, making it appear as though NMMNHS was sponsoring only those events scheduled for February 9th. Since the collaboration between NMMNHS and atheist groups as well as the ensuing cover-up, Martinez has been asked to look into the museum’s role in denigrating religion. Despite its attempts to appear otherwise, there is a lot of evidence that proves the museum did in fact collaborate with atheist groups to organize events for Darwin Day.
While atheists think the collaboration was perfectly justified, they have been offended by NMMNHS’s attempt to cover up what they believe the museum really did not have to. On the other hand, religious citizens in New Mexico have been made to believe that the government has a clear preference for atheism and has failed to offer equal access to groups with different takes on origins. They are now alleging that the museum violated constitutional requirements of free speech and separation of church and state to endorse atheism. NMMNHS’s attempt to cover-up its collaboration with atheist groups has made the situation only worse for the staff at the museum.