Arkansas secular group wants to make a splash

FFRF hopes to wash out discriminatory water park discount

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Ark., to discontinue a church discount next season.

Willow Springs Water Park owner David Ratliff offered a special Monday promotion to church groups for five dollars per person.

Leifel Jackson, executive director of the charitable Reaching Our Children and Neighborhoods (ROCAN), asked the water park if the discount would extend to his non-profit. Jackson was told that ROCAN could not receive the discount because it is not a church group.

ROCAN Director Jeff Poleet — a new FFRF Lifetime Member — explained to Ratliff that ROCAN is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, just like a church and should not be denied the promotion.

Arkansas Matters reported that without the discount, Jackson said he couldn't afford the admission and ROCAN's planned trip was canceled, crushing some kids' hopes.

As a result of his conversation with Poleet, Ratliff chose to discontinue all discounts for the remainder of this season.

FFRF Staff Attorney Stephanie Schmitt, concerned the church discount may be reinstated in the future, pointed out in an August 2 letter to Ratliff that the discount violated both federal and Arkansas law.

Arkansas citizens are guaranteed "the right to the full enjoyment of any of the accomodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement."

Ratliff told a reporter that the discount was "not a moneymaker." He said every time he has a church group they have people who are "very well behaved, they expect the most of each other, they are supervised, organized, and it's less expensive to bring them."

"Willow Springs Water Park's restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies both customers who do not attend church as well as nonbelievers the right to 'full and equal' enjoyment of Willow Springs Water Park. Any promotions should be available to all customers regardless of religious preference or practice on a non-discriminatory basis," wrote Schmitt.

FFRF said it would have been far nicer and shown good will had Ratliff extended the Monday discount to all 501(c)(3) groups, particularly those serving children. However, FFRF said dropping the promotion, thereby ensuring that secular groups are not charged more, at least conforms to the Civil Rights Act. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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