Organization:Camp Quest

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Camp Quest
MottoIt's beyond belief!
FoundersEdwin Kagin, Helen Kagin, Ed McAndrews, Elizabeth Oldiges, Nikki Orlemann, David Scheidt and Vern Uchtman
Founded atBoone County, Kentucky
TypeNon Governmental Organization
Legal statusIncorporated company
HeadquartersStaunton, Virginia
WebsiteCamp Quest

Camp Quest is an organisation providing humanist residential summer camps for children in the United States , the United Kingdom , Switzerland and Norway .[1][2] It was created in 1996 in Kentucky to provide an alternative to the traditional religiously affiliated summer camps, for the children of nontheistic, humanist or freethinking families as well as children from a religious upbringing.[3] Camp Quest currently consists of 13 affiliated camp groups and its current Executive Director is Kim Newton.[4]


In 1995 Edwin Kagin, member of the Free Inquiry Group of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky (FIG), conceived of the idea for a secular summer camp for children of nontheistic and atheist families, in response to the exclusion of non-religious children from the Boy Scouts of America.[5] He formed a small committee of members of FIG with himself and Helen Kagin acting as directors and on August 11, 1996 the first camp took place in premises owned by Bullittsburg Baptist Church in Boone County, Kentucky with 20 children attending.[6][7][8]

In 1999 Camp Quest moved to a nearby YMCA camp in Ohio, Camp Kern, at which the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association then sought the legal right to restrict the use of their campgrounds based on religious beliefs. At their request, then-Kentucky Representative Tom Kerr sponsored legislation (House Bill 70) exempting religious organizations from anti-discrimination requirements of public accommodation laws. His legislation was not successful and the bill was passed over in 2000.[9]

Camp Quest Inc.

In 2000 Camp Quest expanded with independent camps operating across the United States with the same mission statement, becoming Camp Quest Inc., an independent educational non-profit organization, in 2007 with Fred Edwords as its first president.[10] Camp Quest Inc. now serves as an umbrella group for all Camp Quest affiliates in North America. Edwin and Helen Kagin continued as co-directors of the original Camp Quest based in Ohio until their retirement in 2005. The original Camp Quest moved to 4-H Camp Graham in Clarksville, Ohio, its current location.

The first affiliated group to begin operating a second Camp Quest summer camp session was the Rationalists of East Tennessee,[11] which hosted its first camp session in Tennessee under the name Camp Quest of the Smoky Mountains in 2002.

in 2009 Camp Quest expanded outside North America with Camp Quest UK launching in the United Kingdom . Current Camp Quest UK director, Samantha Stein, became a volunteer for the organisation at a camp in Michigan and was prompted to start a camp in the UK with a group of volunteers.[12][13] The first UK camp was supported by a grant from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and was held in Somerset.[14] Stein fielded a considerable amount of press interest when the Sunday Times broadsheet newspaper ran a front-page article on Camp Quest UK with the headline 'Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists'.[13][15] The Times later went on to include it in their Best kids camps in Britain[16] and 10 best kids' adventure holidays.[17] CQUK also received support from the Humanists UK.[18]

Camp Quest Norway launched in 2011[19] followed by Camp Quest Switzerland in 2013.[20] Camp Quest Ireland was held as a two-day gathering in Dublin in 2010.[21]

Programs and activities

Most camps' activities include traditional summer camp events: campfires, singing, crafts, games,[7] swimming, canoeing and archery.[22] Other activities explore science and nature and might include meteorology,[23] astronomy,[24] evolution or building rockets.[3] Campers are also encouraged to explore mythology and philosophy,[19] including discussing ethics in a camp version of Socrates Cafe.[25] Campers might also learn American Sign Language, do drama or learn to build a radio.[26] All the programs aim to introduce campers between the age of 8 and 17 to critical thinking, logic and freethought.[7][27]

As of 2017 Camp Quest has expressed that it will not segregate activities by gender and has introduced policies to accommodate non binary gender and transgender campers and staff.[28]

Invisible unicorn challenge

During Camp Quest attendees are tasked with the invisible unicorn challenge, aimed at showing that a negative cannot be proven.[15] The task is one of the ways used to encourage children to exercise logic and explore ideas about the burden of proof and challenges the children to prove that invisible unicorns do not exist. The children are told that two invisible unicorns exist at Camp Quest and that there is a valuable book proving their existence which has been passed from generation to generation but no one is allowed to read. Any camper who can prove that the unicorns do not exist will win a godless one-hundred dollar bill (issued before 1957, the year the U.S. Congress mandated that "In God We Trust" be printed on American fiat currency.) In the UK the prize is a £10 note signed by Richard Dawkins.[24] Since first offering this challenge in August 1996, the prize remains unclaimed.[29]

International branches:

  • Camp Quest UK (July 2009)[15]
  • Camp Quest Ireland (Held in 2010)[21]
  • Camp Quest Norway (July 2011)[19]
  • Camp Quest Schweiz (August 2013) in Switzerland.[2]

See also

  • Invisible Pink Unicorn
  • Kibbo Kift
  • Order of Woodcraft Chivalry
  • Prometheus camps
  • Scouting
  • Wandervogel
  • The Woodcraft Folk


  1. "Camp Quest Mission". Camp Quest, Inc. 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Camp Quest Schweiz". Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Oklahoma Summer Camp Caters To Non-Religious Kids". KOTV. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  4. "Meet our Staff". Camp Quest. Archived from the original on July 2017. Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  5. Tom Flynn (May 31, 1996). "Happy Campers". Secular Humanist Bulletin 12 (2). 
  6. Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids without Religion (Abridged ebook ed.). AMACOM. 15 February 2011. pp. 242–243. ISBN 9780814474266. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hesse, Monica. "Camp Quest is atheists' answer to Bible school". Archived from the original on July 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  8. Zuckerman, Phil (2014). "5". Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions. New York: Penguin Group. pp. 107–109. ISBN 978-1-59420-508-8. 
  9. "Camp Quest Lease of Baptist Summer Camp Spurs Legislative Efforts to Exempt Churches from Public Accommodation Laws". Edwin Kagin. 1998. 
  10. "Our History". Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  11. "Rationalists of East Tennessee - Home". 
  12. "Summertime camps boom: The 'Godless alternative' for non-believers". Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Sturgess, Kylie. "Philosophising Children And Camp Quest UK – Interview With Samantha Stein". James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  14. Morris, Steven (29 July 2009). "Summer camp offers 'godless' alternative for atheists". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Leach, Ben (28 June 2009). "Richard Dawkins launches children's summer camp for atheists". The Telegraph. 
  16. Brookes, Julia. "The best kids camps in Britain". Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  17. Bleach, Stephen. "Britain's 10 best kids' adventure holidays". Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  18. "Our supporters". Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Gran, Even. "Første norske Camp quest-leir neste sommer (First Norwegian Camp Quest camp next summer)". Archived from the original on July 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  20. "Camp Quest". Archived from the original on July 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Camp Quest Ireland". Archived from the original on July 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  22. "Glad to be godless". Archived from the original on October 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2017. 
  23. Hansen, Susan. "Summer Camp That's a Piece of Heaven for the Children, but Please, No Worshiping". Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Morris, Steven. "The great unicorn hunt". Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  25. Mitchell, Corrie. "Camp Quest provides summer fun for atheist kids". Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  26. "Life at camp". Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  27. Epstein, Greg (2010). Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. HarperCollins. p. 237. ISBN 978-0061670121. 
  28. Marusic, Kristina. "This Camp Is Making Itself Trans-Inclusive In The Most Amazing Way". Viacom International. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  29. "Frequently Asked Questions about Camp Quest". Camp Quest UK. April 29, 2009. 

External links