Victory in Arkansas: The Trial, Decision, and Aftermath

Creation Evolution Journal
Title: 
Victory in Arkansas: The Trial, Decision, and Aftermath
Author(s): 
Frederick Edwords
Volume: 
3
Number: 
1
Quarter: 
Winter
Page(s): 
33–45
Year: 
1982

December 7, 1981, the fortieth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, will be remembered by veterans of a different conflict as the first day of the Arkansas court case dubbed "Scopes II." Arkansas had earlier in the year passed a two-model creation-evolution bill that demanded equal time for "creation science" every time evolution was taught. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in federal court charging that the law was unconstitutional and therefore should be struck down. After six months of preparation, which included the ACLU's unsuccessful efforts to subpoena a major portion of the files of the Institute for Creation Research, the two sides in the case met in the Little Rock courtroom before U.S. District Judge William Overton.

The Trial

It was clear from the beginning that the case would be a major battle of immense interest to the public. In the courtroom itself were nine trial lawyers, seven television crews, and an audience of two hundred reporters and spectators. A man in a gorilla suit, carrying a sign bearing a question mark, strolled through the court building. Evening newspapers around the country reported each day's events the day they happened. Even newspapers in foreign countries, including those as far away as Australia, ran full daily reports.

According to the ACLU challenge, the creation law (Act 590) constituted an establishment of religion—which is prohibited by the First Amendment of the Constitution—violated the academic freedom of teachers and students, and was impermissibly vague in its wording. The ACLU's strategy was to prove that the law resulted in unconstitutional establishment of religion by referring to the case of Lemon vs. Kurtzman, in which the Establishment Clause test was clearly formulated, and by demonstrating how Act 590 failed to meet the requirements of a constitutional law in this regard. The requirements are as follows: "First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion . . . finally, the

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statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion." Failure to meet any of these criteria would render the law unconstitutional.

The opening arguments of the ACLU were presented by attorney Robert Cearley. He argued that the creationism law was an "unprecedented attempt by the legislature to use its power and authority to define what science is and to force religion into the schools in the guise of science." Arkansas Attorney-General Steve Clark, speaking in defense of the law, argued that the statute only "broadens the teaching of origins from a one-model to a two-model approach." He further stated that it was a "mere coincidence" that the law's definition of "creation science" resembled certain religious beliefs.

Since Judge Overton decided to allow both sides to put all testimony they wished on the court record before he decided what to rule out, the Arkansas case (McLean vs. Arkansas) immediately moved ahead of the historic Scopes and Epperson trials which had evaded the direct battle over evidence for creation and evolution.

The first witnesses for the plaintiffs challenging the law were several Bible scholars who testified that some of the language of Act 590 came directly from the book of Genesis, including the word kinds, a creationist term for animal groups that is found mainly in the King James translation. Michael Ruse, a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, argued that creationists abandon the scientific approach when they invoke miracles to patch up difficulties in their theory. He characterized creationist methods as being "rather sleazy."

Dorothy Nelkin of Cornell University and George Marsden of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, testified on the history of the fundamentalist and creationist movements in the United States. Nelkin said that she had discovered, during research for her book on the subject, that fundamentalists equate evolution with "communism, sexual promiscuity, the decline of the family, and streaking." Marsden quoted creationist Henry Morris as saying that evolution "is really the foundation of the very rebellion of Satan himself." Attorneys for the state objected that this data was irrelevant because the law under question did not involve the teaching of religion. However, Judge Overton overruled them, declaring that creationist authors "can't wear two hats. I don't think the writers can call it religion for one purpose and science for another."

Geneticist Francisco Ayala, who has been an editor of journals concerning genetics and who has reviewed papers for many others, noted in his testimony that he had never heard of a scientific paper on creationism being submitted to any scientific journal. This indicated that creationists were bypassing the scientific community and were instead using political means to establish their "science" in the schools. Ayala noted that something similar had happened a number of years ago in the Soviet Union when doctrinaire proponents of Lamarckian evolution demanded equal time with Darwinism. Because they used

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political means, the Lamarckian advocates managed to finally push Darwinism out, and Soviet biology suffered a thirty-year setback as a result of state attachment to this pseudoscientific position.

Ayala also presented some of the genetic evidence for evolution. He note that, when geneticists first began to compare genes between humans and apes, the first gene tested showed no difference at all. Comparisons of the second and third genes tested showed no differences either. When the fourth test showed no evidence, the joke began circulating that evolution was false and the only difference between humans and apes was cultural.

G. Brent Dalrymple, of the U.S. Geological Survey, testified that the creationist claim for an earth being no older than twenty thousand years ranks wit the "flat earth hypothesis and the hypothesis that the sun goes around the earth.'

Stephen Jay Gould read off numerous misquotations, half quotations, and misrepresentations of his own work from the writings of creationist Duane Gish and others. Interestingly enough, Gish was on the scene to witness this expose. Gould further noted that the creationist's arguments for a worldwide flood were shown to be in error as far back as 1831, before Darwin wrote his famous book on evolution.

Dennis Glasgow, the supervisor of science teaching for the Little Rock schools, was the next to testify. He said that, in order to implement Act 590, he would have to uproot the entire school curriculum from kindergarten to senior high. He further argued that the Act, as he understood it, wouldn't allow teachers to voice a professional judgment that creationism was unscientific and the students would be watching the teacher to see if he or she broke the law in the presentation of the material. This would degrade the teacher and cause students to lose respect.

Marianne Wilson, who is in charge of the science curriculum for the largest school district in Arkansas, told the story of her efforts to produce a creation-science curriculum guide. She found all of the standard creationist material unacceptable because they were permeated with religious references and scientific errors. Ms. Wilson further stated that she was unable to locate the needed scientific materials upon which to base her curriculum guide.

The ACLU rested its case on December 11, and the defense presented its witnesses.

The first defense witness was Professor Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary. He argued persuasively that the concept of God was not necessarily religious; it only became religious when it involved commitment. He noted that Aristotle had argued for a "first cause" and an "unmoved mover," which Aristotle held to be scientific concepts. Thus, Geisler concluded, mere belief that there is a God "has no religious significance" and therefore could be taught as part of a secular course of study. This was the most crucial testimony for the state's defense.

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But under effective cross-examination from ACLU attorney Anthony Siano, Geisler revealed that he believed the Bible to be inerrant, Satan to be existent, the occult to be real, exorcism to be genuine, and UFOs to be among us. Siano asked his last question, "How are UFOs connected to your religion?" Geisler replied, "I think they are a satanic manifestation in the world for the purpose of deception." For a few seconds the court was silent in astonishment. Then Judge Overton adjourned the session.

Other defense witnesses testified during the following days. Margaret Helder, vice-president of the Creation Research Society and a botanist from Canada, argued that available research didn't support the evolution of plants. But, under cross-examination by Gary Crawford, she admitted that nearly all biologists would disagree with her and that most of her evidence was negative evidence against evolution rather than data supporting creation. She revealed that she believed that there was no scientific evidence supportive of creation.

Dr. Wayne Friar of King's College in New York called Act 590 a "progressive law" at the "cutting edge" of new science and education in America. "If Darwin were alive today, he'd be a creationist," Friar declared.

High school chemistry teacher Jimmy Townley told the court that he wanted to teach a few creationist facts in his classroom, such as the calculation that random combinations of chemicals cannot make the molecules of life. The judge asked him why he couldn't teach that calculation in class now without the creationism law. Townley seemed confused at the idea that opposing information could be part of the study of evolution. He maintained that any evidence that cast doubt on evolution must be evidence for God and creation. Judge Overton pressed him to think of science as data. After much back and forth, Townley let the cat out of the bag, "I want to teach . . . creation."

Former college chemistry professor Donald Chittick was asked in cross-examination whether or not he would be able to accept any scientific data that contradicted his belief in the literal truth of the Bible. Chittick pondered the question for a full minute before saying softly, "I cannot give an answer...."

Harold Coffin and Ariel Roth, from the Seventh-day Adventist Geoscience Research Institute, the most well-known creationists to testify, presented arguments against evolution. They referred to such things as the apparent rapid fossilization of extinct forms (which they felt would imply a sudden catastrophe, such as a worldwide flood, rather than slow evolution), the great depth of coal beds, the possibility that coral reefs could have grown faster than what evolutionists say, and the fact that the oldest known bat fossil looks very much like a modern bat. But in spite of this seemingly science-based testimony, which the state had hoped would show that creationism was not a religion, Coffin declared under cross-examination that, if it weren't for the Bible, he would believe that the earth was millions of years old. Catastrophic events outlined in the Bible, and nowhere else, coinciding with his scientific studies, convinced him that a world-wide

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flood had occurred about seven thousand years ago.

The most interesting witness for the defense was probably Dr. N. K. Wicramasinghe, head of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Wales and coworker of British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle. Dr. Wicramasinghe testified that most of the ideas of creation science, such as the young earth, worldwide flood, separate creation of plant and animal "kinds," and the separate ancestry for humans and apes were "claptrap." He only agreed that evolution cannot explain the appearance of life in the first place or the occurrence of new species over time. He argued that the chances that chemical combinations necessary for life could occur from the random motion of molecules were the same as the chance that "a tornado blowing through a junkyard would assemble a Boeing 747."

Wickramasinghe's own scientific hypothesis was that there are microorganisms living inside comets and that life is rained down on earth from space when a comet passes by. He said that one such passage brought life to the earth and that succeeding passages brought the genes that allowed new species to develop. As one example of his evidence, he cited an outbreak of influenza at Eton school it England. When asked if he had "any unequivocal evidence that there is DNA or organisms in space," he answered in the negative. "But you believe that school children caught a cold from a comet?" Wickramasinghe laughed and said, "That is so."

Wickramasinghe also testified that he believed insects might be more intelligent than humans but "they're not letting on that they're smarter, because things are going so well for them."

With such startling testimony and energetic cross-examination, the trial could easily have become a circus. But Judge Overton maintained order in his courtroom, and both sides carefully argued from the law.

The creation had allegedly taken seven days, but its trial took nine.

Judge Overton dispensed with closing arguments from the two sides or December 17, the last day of the trial, and retired with three hundred pages of notes to study in order to arrive at a decision and write an opinion. The written opinion did not emerge until January 5, 1982.

The Decision

In an unusually strongly worded opinion, Judge Overton overturned the Arkansas creationism law and entered an injunction "permanently prohibiting enforcement of Act 590." He declared that the Act failed to meet any one of the three requirements of the Establishment Clause test formulated in Lemon vs. Kurtzman. In order to show why the Act did not have a secular legislative purpose (the first of the three requirements), Overton detailed the history of the passing of the law which can be summarized as follows.

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The Arkansas law was a "model" bill drafted and promoted nationwide by Paul Ellwanger, a respiratory therapist from South Carolina. Around 1977, Ellwanger had collected several proposed pieces of creationist legislation with the idea of preparing a model state law. "One of the proposals he collected was prepared by Wendell Bird, who is now a staff attorney for ICR." In explaining his model bill in a letter to Pastor Robert E. Hays, Ellwanger made it clear that he did not believe that creationism was a science.

While neither evolution nor creation can qualify as a scientific theory, and since it is virtually impossible at this point to educate the whole world that evolution is not a true scientific theory, we have freely used these terms—the evolution theory and the theory of scientific creationism—in the bill's text.

Overton said that Ellwanger's other correspondence on the subject showed "an awareness that Act 590 is a religious crusade, coupled with a desire to conceal this fact." For example, in a letter to Senator Joseph Carlucci of Florida, Ellwanger wrote:

It would be very wise, if not actually essential, that all of us who are engaged in this legislative effort be careful not to present our position and our work in a religious framework. For example, in written communications that might somehow be shared with those other persons whom we may be trying to convince, it would be well to exclude our own personal testimony or witness for Christ....

In a letter to State Senator Bill Keith of Louisiana, Ellwanger stated, "I view this whole battle as one between God and anti-God forces, though I know there are a large number of evolutionists who believe in God." And, in a letter to Tom Bethell, he revealed his ultimate purpose to be "killing evolution instead of playing these debating games that we've been playing for nigh over a decade already."

The Reverend W. A. Blount, chairman of the Greater Little Rock Evangelical Fellowship in Little Rock, Arkansas, was one of those who received a copy of Ellwanger's model bill. Blout later caused the Evangelical Fellowship to adopt a resolution to seek introduction of the bill in the Arkansas legislature. The proposed bill was then transmitted to Carl A. Hunt, a business associate of State Senator James L. Hoisted, with the request that Hunt prevail upon Hoisted to introduce it.

Hunt contacted Hoisted, and Hoisted later introduced the bill in the Arkansas Senate, but "did not consult the State Department of Education, scientists, science educators, or the Arkansas attorney general." No Senate committee held a hearing on the bill, and it was passed after only a few minutes of discussion on the Senate floor. "In the House of Representatives, the bill was referred to the Education Committee, which conducted a perfunctory fifteen-minute hearing.

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No scientist testified at the hearing, nor was any representative from the State Department of Education called to testify."

Interestingly, the legislative "findings of fact" in the model bill were adopted as written, even though "no meaningful fact-finding process was employed by the General Assembly." Ellwanger, Blount, and Hoisted were motivated solely by "religious beliefs and the desire to see the biblical version of creation taught in the public schools." Senator Holsted had testified in the case that the bill did indeed favor the religious position of fundamentalist biblical literalists.

Judge Overton added in his opinion that "the state failed to produce any evidence [during the trial] which would warrant an inference or conclusion that at any point in the process anyone considered the legitimate educational value of the Act. It was simply and purely an effort to introduce the biblical version of creation into the public school curricula."

That being established, Overton went on to show that the Act had the principal or primary effect of advancing religion. He did this by showing the clear religious nature of the Act's definition of creation science.

Overton said that this definition "has as its unmentioned reference the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis. Among the many creation epics in human history, the account of sudden creation from nothing—or creatio ex nihilo—and the subsequent destruction of the world by flood is unique to Genesis." Overton further referred to testimony that showed how this effort to cast Genesis in nonreligious terms was discomforting to "some of the Act's theologically sophisticated supporters," who could see that the concept of a creator "distinct from the God of love and mercy is closely similar to the Marcion and Gnostic heresies, among the deadliest to threaten the early Christian church."

The notion of God itself was declared by Overton to be religious. "The argument advanced by defendants' witness, Dr. Norman Geisler, that teaching the existence of God is not religious unless the teaching seeks a commitment, is contrary to common understanding and contradicts settled case law." He cited Stone vs. Graham and Abbington School District vs. Schempp in support of this.

The whole approach to teaching creation and evolution under Act 590 "is identical to the two-model approach espoused by the Institute for Creation Research and is taken almost verbatim from ICR writings. It is an extension of the fundamentalists' view that one must either accept the literal interpretation of Genesis or else believe in the godless system of evolution." Overton added that the two-model approach "is simply a contrived dualism" having no scientific basis or "legitimate educational purpose."

Had Overton stopped there, he would not have shown that the primary effect of Act 590 was the advancement of religion. He would only have established that, while promoting science, that was the Act's secondary effect. But Overton did not stop there; he went on to show that "creation science has no scientific

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merit or educational value as science." This point made it clear that "since creation science is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion."

Overton showed that creationism was not science by first listing the essential characteristics of science: (1) it is guided by natural law; (2) it has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; (3) it is testable against the empirical world; (4) its conclusions are tentative, that is, are not necessarily the final word; and (5) it is falsifiable. He then argued that creation science failed to meet the characteristics because it required a supernatural intervention which is not guided by natural law and which "is not explanatory by reference to natural law, is not testable, and is not falsifiable." In support of this he pointed out that creationist methods "do not take data, weigh it against the opposing scientific data," and then reach conclusions. Instead, creationists "take the literal wording of the Book of Genesis and attempt to find scientific support for it."

Judge Overton's most devastating critique of creation science was probably the following comment:

The proof in support of creation science consisted almost entirely of efforts to discredit the theory of evolution through a rehash of data and theories which have been before the scientific community for decades. The arguments asserted by creationists are not based upon new scientific evidence or laboratory data which has been ignored by the scientific community.

What remained was for Judge Overton to show that Act 590 would foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion." This he did by noting how school officials would constantly have to monitor materials and teaching activities to avoid religious references. "How is the teacher to respond to questions about a creation suddenly and out of nothing?" he asked. "How will a teacher explain the occurrence of a worldwide flood? . . . The answer is obvious because the only source of this information is ultimately contained in the Book of Genesis." He further noted that having the state screen texts for impermissible religious references "will require state officials to make delicate religious judgments." These activities would constitute excessive government entanglement with religion.

These were the main points in Judge Overton's decision. However, the document should be read in its entirety for the many details it has to offer. Copies can be secured for only $6.50 each (mailed first class) by writing to: ACLU of Arkansas, P.O. Box 2832, Little Rock, AR 72203. The New York Times published excerpts from the decision on January 6, and Education Week ran the whole text in its January 12 issue (Vol. 1, No. 16). The American Association for the Advancement of Science publication, Science, will run the text in a future issue, and the National Association of Biology Teachers publication, American Biology Teacher, plans to run the text in its March issue.

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The Aftermath

It is clear that creationists knew in advance that they were going to lose. A day before the trial ended, Duane Gish of ICR had spoken to reporters and said that he would not recommend that other states adopt similar creationism laws. Throughout the trial Arkansas Attorney General Steve Clark was under attack from his own side for the way he was handling the defense. Television evangelist Pat Robertson reportedly declared on a broadcast of his "700 Club" show that Clark was "crooked" and was trying to lose the creation trial on purpose. As a result of this statement, Clark consulted his personal attorney to decide whether or not to sue Robertson. In another attack on Clark, the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund issued a nine-page denunciation of him, which said that he was unprepared to defend Act 590.

Even before the trial got underway, creationists were making plans in the event of a loss. The law's sponsor, Senator James Hoisted, had said, "But if we lose, it won't matter that much. If the law is unconstitutional, it'll be because of something in the language that's wrong. So we'll just change the wording and try again with another bill. . . . We've got a lot of time. Eventually we'll get one that's constitutional."

Perhaps Hoisted was speaking with a knowledge of Paul Ellwanger's new revised version of the model bill. Ellwanger, who was probably impressed by the arguments in the ACLU's suit, had revised his original creation law so that it could now get around them and had begun circulating it in state legislatures across the country. "The new draft bill is very tight indeed," Ellwanger said.

Since this "revised edition" is now slated for consideration by at least twelve states, the changes should be examined in detail.

The first change is the title. It no longer speaks of "balanced treatment" but is instead called the "Unbiased Presentation of Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Bill." Ellwanger thinks that he has his opposition cornered with this gambit. "Liberals have objected to bias in education," he says, "now let's see them support the removal of bias."

In the statement of the bill's purpose, some new words are added and some old words are changed. The bill now has the additional purpose of making "public schools neutral" toward student beliefs. This implies that they are not neutral at present. Along this same line, the former purpose of preventing establishment of religion is now changed to a purpose of ending establishment of religion. Supposedly then, evolution is a religion established in the public schools.

But the most outstanding change is the removal or modification of any phrase that might make creationism look biblical. Thus, whereas the former version defined , , creation science as involving creation of the universe and life from nothing, the new version drops "from nothing" and replaces it with "suddenly." Reference to the worldwide flood is dropped so that creation science now only

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offers "rapid catastrophic processes" as the explanation for the earth's geology. Finally, the line about a "relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds" now reads: "Consideration of several chronometric processes that could reliably indicate the ages of the earth and of life, including both those processes that indicate a multibillion year age and those processes that indicate a relatively more recent inception." This is a reiteration of the common creationist debate argument that creationism is "open" to either the old earth or young earth options, while evolution is "limited" to only the old earth option. Such an approach makes it look as though creationists merely want science teachers to add scientific data that is often "hidden" from students.

A whole new section is added that explains what "unbiased presentation" amounts to. One part of this explanation speaks of giving the two models "an equal number of pages (adding together portions thereof) to the nearest 10 percent of the total pages in assigned textbook materials, but only to the extent such materials are available." This sort of thing "should get around the specific vagueness in the ACLU suit," Ellwanger says.

Another new section requires the use of existing funds to implement the law. Schools and school districts are only to use "currently authorized and future authorized special or other textbook acquisition funds" to purchase the needed textbooks. This also applies to library books and teacher-training expenses. Ellwanger hopes by this addition to get around the political arguments of his opponents who frequently point out how much creationism will cost. Creationist books would be purchased simply by spending less money on standard books.

Since creationists are often accused of trying to, ultimately, get creationism taught alone, the "legislative findings of fact" in the model bill now try to show the opposite. For example, when it is claimed that teaching evolution exclusively "violates the constitutional principle of academic freedom," it is added, "just as presentation of only creation science would in the same way violate academic freedom." This sort of wording occurs again and again, hammering home the notion that this bill is very fair and even-handed.

Whether or not this wording will hide the real intent from any discerning judge is doubtful, but it will require more research on the part of the bill's opponents to dig up the facts as to what creationists are really after.

Ellwanger's strategy in getting this bill passed appeared to be that of getting it into state legislatures before the trial ended—or at least before the decision was issued and widely reported. He was partially successful in Mississippi, where the state senate voted forty-eight to four in favor of the bill. The vote came within hours of the announcement of the Arkansas decision. The bill was then sent to the Mississippi House.

Bills had also been filed in the Senate and House of Florida before the Arkansas decision. However, in the case the decision caused a delay in the scheduling of these bills, which may be fatal to their passage.

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Meanwhile, in Louisiana where Ellwanger's earlier version was passed in 1981, the case is already in the courts. The ACLU filed its lawsuit on December 3, 1981. A trial date has not yet been set. Louisiana's state education superintendent has asked a federal court to declare the law invalid, in light of the Arkansas decision. Creationists, however, will attempt to block such a move, because creationist lawyers Wendell Bird and John Whitehead have been deputized by the Louisiana state attorney general to assist him in defending the law. This will be their big chance to present the case the way they feel it should have been presented in Arkansas. Bird said that he had nothing against Arkansas Attorney General Clark but stated, "It does bother me that a very significant case was litigated in so haphazard a manner." Richard Bliss, speaking for ICR, noted that the Arkansas decision "will be a blow for us. . . . We are discouraged, but not defeated." He looks forward to the Louisiana case. His only worry is, "If we don't win that one, I don't know what to say. We will have no excuse at all."

However, another worry looms on the horizon. Clark is considering legal action against Bird for allegedly discouraging witnesses from testifying in the Arkansas trial. Bird had helped Clark round up witnesses before the trial, but he backed out when Clark wouldn't let him be a counsel of record—that is, a part of the Arkansas defense team. One attorney for Arkansas claims that Bird "wanted a share of the limelight." Bird apparently had later discouraged Dean Kenyon, a biologist from San Francisco State University, from testifying, because he thought Kenyon's reputation would be harmed. Kenyon abruptly left Little Rock the night before he was to testify and has refused to comment.

An attempt is being made to see if Bird violated any Arkansas law. If not, a complaint may still be filed with the California Bar Association, which could lead to Bird's disbarment.

The creation-evolution conflict clearly has not ended; new court battles are to be fought. Although Clark has stated that there is no basis for an appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, or any hope of overthrowing Judge Overton's decision directly, he says that the Louisiana case will have a better chance in the courts if there isn't the confusion of an appeal in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, many creationists have vowed to "take the offensive." Duane Gish, seeming to change his position a bit after learning of the decision, told a reporter, "If anything, creation scientists' efforts will be intensified." He called Overton's opinion "a very serious blow to academic and religious freedom." After the Mississippi State Senate passed their creationism bill, Senator Cecil Mills of Clara, Mississippi, declared, "If we're going to have a nation that says, 'In God We Trust,' let's go all the way or not at all."

So, even the loss of court cases doesn't seem to daunt the creationist movement. In fact, even if all variations of the model creation bill were ruled unconstitutional, the ongoing grass-roots efforts of creationists would probably continue. An indicator of this is the current problem now facing local California school districts

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as a result of the actions of a new creationist organization, the Creation Creed Committee.

The Creation Creed Committee is a California arm of the nationwide lobbying group, Christian Voice, the organization that targeted liberals for defeat in the past national election. The goal of the Committee is to stop what creationists think are local violations of the judge's decision in the California Segraves trial that took place in 1981. (In that case, the judge ruled that evolution could not be taught dogmatically.) Their plan of action has five parts.

First, the running of advertisements on Christian radio and television stations across the state, explaining the judge's decision and asking parents and others to alert the Committee to teachers and books that they suspect may be violating that decision by teaching evolution as fact instead of theory. Second, the enlisting of thousands of church goers and ministers to become "monitors" of their local schools. Their job would consist of "reminding authorities that the California Education Code holds each local board responsible for implementing policy decisions of the state board and that failure to do so may result. in the withholding of county and state funds and the loss of teaching credentials for individual offenders."

The third part consists of the preparation of education kits and a film for those who will be monitoring the schools "so parents of children can more intelligently evaluate what children are being taught." Fourth, parents are to be encouraged to file suit against any local school board "which fails to bring its texts and teachers into compliance with the state codes." And fifth, warnings will be issued to local school districts and the state about questionable textbooks and teachers believed to be teaching evolution as fact.

Working with the Committee is the Creation-Science Research Center, which had figured prominently in the California lawsuit. Kelly Segraves, director of the Center, has stated that, "if the state ignores its own policy, we will sue them in federal court, charging constitutional violations as well as violations of the Civil Rights Act." He added, "We are not so much concerned with what teachers are teaching, but rather what lessons children are drawing from the dogmatic instruction of evolution."

Aside from the fact that such action by the Committee and CSRC amounts to a witch hunt, a further problem is that Segraves is misinterpreting the judge's decision and declaring that it means creationism must be given equal treatment in the classroom.

But even this sort of action is not the final creationist strategy. The action of last resort is civil disobedience. Francis A. Schaeffer, a leading fundamentalist intellectual, has just come out with a new book, A Christian Manifesto, which advocates the resort to force if the government persists in disobeying what he terms the "laws of God." Writing just before the Arkansas case went to trial, Schaeffer says:

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The ACLU is acting as the arm of the humanist consensus to force its view on the majority of the Arkansas state officials.

If there was ever a clearer example of the lower "magistrates" being treated with tyranny, it would be hard to find. And this would be a time, if the courts do rule tyrannically [that is, rule against the creationism law], for the state government to protest and refuse to submit.

Throughout the book, Schaeffer argues that, if legal protests don't work civil disobedience and active demonstration should be used. He reminds his readers that they have no obligation to the state if it becomes "tyrannical" toward Christianity.

Such thinking by creationists could prolong the conflict long after all the legal battles are won. This is why there is no longer any question that the creation evolution controversy will be with us for a long time. The victory in Arkansas is, at best, only a turning point in a long war.

About the Author(s): 

Fred Edwords is editor of Creation/Evolution and administrator of the American Humanist Association.

Copyright 1982 by Frederick Edwords

This version might differ slightly from the print publication.