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Encyclopedia > Camp Quest

Camp Quest is the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of irreligious parents: Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural world view. (see http://www.camp-quest.org )

Camp Quest was founded in 1996 by Edwin F. Kagin, a northern Kentucky attorney and Eagle Scout. Kagin felt a summer camp for secular humanist children was needed to counter the discrimination of the Boy Scouts against non-theistic children. (see http://www.edwinkagin.com)

In November 1995, Kagin presented the idea for a secular summer camp at a meeting hosted by the (then) Council For Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH) in Amherst, New York. Many affiliated groups from the Alliance of Secular Humanist Societies (ASHS) were represented, including the Free Inquiry Group (FIG) of Cincinnati, of which Kagin is a member. Discussion focused on ways to promote secular humanism. (see http://www.gofigger.org)

(CODESH is now called the Council for Secular Humanism, or CSH. http://www.secularhumanism.org CODESH is not to be confused with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Codesh. See http://www.geocities.com/nisetar/rosh.html)

In an April 8, 2003 memo, Matt Cherry, then-executive director of CODESH, reminisced, "All participants were invited—nay, challenged—to contribute their ideas and visions, whether simple or bold. Edwin Kagin, from FIG, spoke of his vision of a humanist summer camp, where nonreligious parents could send their children. This seemed to be a new idea to everyone at the meeting. Many participants were skeptical as to the feasibility of such a venture. A few opposed it in principle. But Paul Kurtz, in expansive mood, welcomed this audacious new idea, and encouraged Edwin and FIG to go ahead and attempt such a secular humanist summer camp."

(Matt Cherry is presently executive director for the Institute for Humanist Studies in Albany, New York http://humaniststudies.org)

The first Camp Quest took place beginning August 11, 1996, as a project of the Free Inquiry Group of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, with Edwin as Camp Director. The first two years of Camp Quest were held at a camp owned by the Bullitsburg Baptist Assembly in Boone County, Kentucky.

Two and a half years after leasing this campsite, although informed by FIG that they are a secular humanist organization, the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association complained that they were not aware of the nature of their lessee, while at the same time holding the contradictory view that they would be sued if they didn't lease to FIG due to the fact that they are a secular humanist organization. By this time, however, FIG had already decided to relocate CQ to a nearby YMCA camp for their third year, and the issue should have been moot. However, the Baptists decided they now wanted the legal right to deny the use of their campgrounds to any organization that has a fundamental conflict with their religious beliefs. They therefore asked then-Kentucky Representative Tom Kerr to sponsor legislation (House Bill 70) that exempts churches from the common anti-discrimination requirements of public accommodation laws. That law passed over the governor's veto in 2000. The full story may be read here, http://www.edwinkagin.com/documents/bullittsburg/

Camp Quest moved to its present location (another YMCA camp near Cincinnati) in 2002 and has been there since. Camp Quest's pedagogy meshes well with the Y's principles of Honesty, Caring, Respect and Responsibility, and Camp Quest is welcomed back year after year.

Also in 2002, Camp Quest, Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit organization independent of FIG, and has since been operated by its own Board of Directors with Fred Edwords as its first president. Edwin continued as Camp Director with wife Helen (registrar since 1997) as co-Camp Director.

Edwin and Helen decided to retire from Camp Quest after the June 2005 session. The torch has been passed to a new generation, and the camp and the organization is now operated by long-time staff members Amanda Metskas as President, August Brunsmann IV as Vice-President and Camp Director, Shawn Jeffers, and Fred Edwords (editor of the AHA's "Humanist" magazine) as Chairman.

(Brunsmann is executive director of the Secular Student Alliance http://www.secularstudents.org ; Fred Edwords is with the American Humanists Association http://www.americanhumanist.org)

Camp Quest is easily identified by its logo, which is immediately recognizable and easily associated with the organization, while at the same time conveying several layers of meaning. Using Edwin's idea, the letters "C" and "Q" were artistically combined into a sort of infinity symbol by Edwin's daughter Kathryn. As of this writing, only one of the spin-off CQ's has elected to adopt this logo, the others apparently opting for independent identities rather than help to establish a national presence. The letters "CQ" are usually accompanied by the Morse Code for those letters, which is Code short-hand for "does anybody want to talk?" There is a great deal of talk at Camp Quest.

Rational inquiry and critical thinking are approached in this way: Every year, campers are informed that two invisible unicorns inhabit Camp Quest. The two invisible unicorns cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, air and water pass through them, they do not eat or drink, they make no noise and they leave no mark. However, we know they exist because Edwin possesses an ancient book handed down through his family for countless generations that says the unicorns are there, and we believe Edwin and we believe what the book says. No one is allowed to see the book. Any camper who can prove that there are NOT two invisible unicorns at Camp Quest will receive a godless one-hundred dollar (U.S. currency) bill which was printed before 1957 (no bills printed prior to 1957 had "God" on them) -- when Congress decided to combine God and Mammon and therefore brought upon us all the calamities of the Modern World as punishment for this crime. After ten years the prize remains unclaimed.

Camp Quest has become something of a movement in its own right. In 2002, Camp Quest of the Smoky Mountains held its first camp (see http://www.rationalists.org/cq). In 2003, Camp Quest of Michigan was incorporated, and after several setbacks is prepared to hold its first camp in August 2006 (see http://michigan.camp-quest.com). Camp Quest of Minnesota (http://www.campquest.org) and Camp Quest of Canada (www.kwcg.humanists.net) held their first sessions in July and August of 2004, respectively. At this writing, Camp Quest West is now organizing as a project of the Atheist Alliance International, and hopes to hold its first session at a campground near Sacramento in summer 2006 (see www.campquestwest.org).

According to their published mission statement, Camp Quest is "dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States."



Some supporters of Camp Quest criticise religious groups for holding religious summer camps, arguing that these serve only to divide children of different faiths. Arguing this way and holding a summer camp for non-believers is a double standard.

Camp motto

"It's Beyond Belief!"

Camp Quest Canada

Camp Quest Canada is a Canadian freethinker Camp modelled after the original US Camp Quest. It was created in 2004 by the Humanist Association of Canada with help from a grant from the Institute for Humanist Studies. Kathy Meidell, president of the Kitchener Waterloo Cambridge Guelph Humanists and second vice president of the Humanist Association of Canada, is its current director. ... The Humanist Association of Canada (HAC) is a Canadian secular humanist organization which provides guidance to individuals who do not feel the need for religious beliefs in their life [1]. // History The Humanist Association of Canada was founded in 1968, with Dr. Henry Morgentaler as its first president. ...


Canada's first and only summer camp for freethinking kids.

Camp activities

Camp Quest Canada has activities such as swimming, canoeing, tennis, nature hikes, and critical thinking challenges. The camp also had bumber boats and code breaking games.


According to the camp website it is meant as a nontheistic alternative to many other Canadian summer camps. The website states that children at Camp Quest Canada learn humanistic values, the Scientific Method, the Theory of Evolution, and Logic. The characterization element can require extended and extensive study, even centuries. ... This article is about biological evolution. ... Logic, from Classical Greek λόγος (logos), originally meaning the word, or what is spoken, (but coming to mean thought or reason) is most often said to be the study of arguments, although the exact definition of logic is a matter of controversy among philosophers. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
GAMOW speech (804 words)
The concept of Camp Quest was inspired by the outraged awareness that the Boy Scouts of American had somehow became so un-American that its leadership had started denying admission to those "dirty little atheists," to those American boys who did not share the supernatural world view of those now making the rules.
Camp Quest was founded in 1996 in response to this exclusion, and, for its seven years of continuous operation, has been a night light in a scary room for our children.
At Camp Quest, while enjoying all of the childhood fun of any summer camp, our children who are our future learn that what happens to each of us and to our world is based on cause and effect—not on faith and miracles.
  More results at FactBites »



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