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Introducation
Definitions
Religion vs. Science
First Amendment & Religious Explanations of Creation
Promoting Religious Explanations in Public Schools
Harming Religious Education
Conclusion

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Civil Rights  
Religious Doctrine in the Science Classroom;
Putting Education & Religious Freedom at Risk
RULE
Recent Efforts to Promote Religious Explanations
of Creation in the Public Schools

Even though attempts to ban instruction on evolution outright or to include religious explanations of creation in the public schools run counter to Supreme Court rulings, proponents of creationism, creation science and intelligent design have in recent years demanded that schools incorporate these ideas into science curricula. They have also developed new strategies for undermining the way biology is predominantly taught in the public schools. For example:

Ignoring Supreme Court rulings, the Dover, PA school district became the first in the nation to mandate discussion of intelligent design within the science classroom. In 2004, its school board adopted a revision to the high-school biology curriculum which states, “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, Intelligent Design.”

The member of the Dover School Board who initiated the revision is an adherent of creationism, but stated that “this is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else.” However, he insisted that “it’s a downright fraud to perpetrate on the students of this district to portray one theory over another.” Two dissenting board members resigned from the board in protest. One of them described these developments as the result of having “a vocal community group within the community who feel very strongly … that there is no separation of church and state.” Concerned parents filed a federal lawsuit challenging Dover’s curriculum revision. After the trial concluded at the end of October 2005, Dover citizens voted out eight incumbent school board members who supported the inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum, replacing them with a slate of candidates whose platform called for removing the subject from the curriculum. At the end of 2005, the federal court issued a decision finding that intelligent design is not science, but another form of creationism. It therefore ruled that discussion of intelligent design in the science classroom advanced religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The new school board decided not to appeal this ruling.

In 1999, the Kansas Board of Education removed evolution from the statewide high-school biology curriculum. Citizens responded by voting out of office two of the board members who supported this measure, and in 2001 evolution was restored to the required biology curriculum. In November 2005, however, a new majority of Kansas Board of Education members approved biology standards that characterize evolution as a flawed scientific theory and redefine science to include supernatural explanations -- such as intelligent design -- rather than natural explanations for physical evidence.

The Georgia State School Superintendent in 2004 removed all references to evolution and related concepts from middle and high school science materials. A backlash from concerned parents, scientists and politicians, including former President Jimmy Carter, convinced the Superintendent to restore these subjects to the curriculum.

In 1999, the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee mandated that publishers doing business with the state be required to place a disclaimer in all biology books. The disclaimer states that evolution is “a controversial theory which some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants and humans.” It goes on to attack evolutionary theory as an “unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.”

Similarly, a 2002 petition initiated by supporters of creationism resulted in the school board of Cobb County, GA inserting a disclaimer into middle and high school science textbooks. The disclaimer stated, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

Although couched in the language of scientific skepticism, these disclaimers are designed to cast doubt on the process of evolution – for religious reasons. Indeed, some supporters of these disclaimers have openly stated that their purpose is to give creationism an equal chance in the schools. Concerned Cobb County parents filed a federal lawsuit challenging the disclaimer. In early 2005, a federal district court ruled the disclaimer unconstitutional because it impermissibly endorsed religion.


Other Materials about Freedom of Religion
School Vouchers
First Amendment Primer
Charitable Choice
Faith and Freedom: 
The Case for Separation of Church-State
Religion in The Public Schools
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