Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fwd: Cal school district cancels creationism class



From the Los Angeles Times

Creationism Falls From Kern County School Curriculum

By Ann M. Simmons
Times Staff Writer

5:00 PM PST, January 17, 2006

FRESNO — A creationism class was canceled this morning by a public school district in the town of Lebec that promised never again to schedule such a course in its classrooms.

The El Tejon Unified School District agreed to discontinue the class, which used creationist materials that insist that the biblical Book of Genesis is literally true and is scientific.

Opponents challenged the four-week course as an "infomercial for creationism" that violated the constitutionally-ordered separation of church and state.

The school district, in a statement, said it could not afford to fight the lawsuit.

"It was very difficult for the school board to make this decision. Neither the school board or its employees have promoted any religious belief in any academic setting. The idea was to have an open discussion of the different points of views on the origin of life, a philosophical exercise in critical thinking," according to the statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the teaching of creationism in public schools in 1987, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania last month found an intelligent design course to be banned by the decision.

The Kern County district was sued last week by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, legally challenging the course taught at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec by special education teacher and soccer coach.

In a formal legal document circulated by the plaintiff, the district agreed to "terminate and discontinue" the course and promised not to schedule "any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design."

A clerk for U.S. District Judge Oliver M. Wanger in Fresno said this morning that the lawsuit had been settled.

"Public schools have no business promoting religion," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "I hope that other public schools learn from this incident and reject efforts to bring religious doctrines into classrooms."

Americans United represented local parents who opposed the course for its promotion of religious concepts.

"This course was far from intelligently designed," said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan. "It was an infomercial for creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design."

Last month, Americans United and the Pennsylvania ACLU won a decisive victory over "intelligent design" advocates in a case from Dover, Pa. In that legal action, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science and ordered it removed from the Dover schools.

The El Tejon case, AU maintained, was even more problematic because it relied heavily on "young-earth" creationist materials that insist that the biblical Book of Genesis is literally true and scientific — a view held by many fundamentalists but rejected by other Christians.

By permitting the course, the El Tejon district was elevating the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint over others and misrepresenting religious concepts as scientific, Americans United asserted in legal documents.

A group of parents sued El Tejon Unified School District for violating the constitutional separation of church and state because the course advanced the theory that life is so complex it must have been created by God.

"The course was designed to advance religious theories on the origins of life, including creationism and its offshoot, 'intelligent design,'" said the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court.

The high school in the Tehachapi Mountains about 75 miles north of Los Angeles draws 500 students from a dozen small communities.


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