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New Creationist Bills, Resolutions, and Court Cases Appear Nationwide

Creation Evolution Journal
Title: 
New Creationist Bills, Resolutions, and Court Cases Appear Nationwide
Volume: 
2
Number: 
2
Quarter: 
Spring
Page(s): 
27–34
Year: 
1981

From the Editor:

In the last issue, we provided a chart of states where creationist action had taken place. Recent events, particularly in the first quarter of 1981, have rendered that chart obsolete. Creationism is breaking out from coast to coast. States we've heard about are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. What follows are the details we have. Please understand, however, that events often move faster than our publishing schedule, and we sometimes depend on individual subscribers to report to us about actions taking place in their areas.

Arkansas

While all eyes were on California, while school was out, and on the last day of the legislative session, a creation bill was passed in Arkansas without resistance. This bill, along with a heap of other pieces of midnight legislation, went to the governor (who was elected on a Moral Majority platform) for signature. The creation bill was the first he signed, and he did so without even reading it. So now it is the law in Arkansas that, whenever evolution is taught, creationism must be given equal time. The ACLU plans litigation, and many scientists in the state are gearing up for a court battle. Arkansas is a state that does not have a Committee of Correspondence to fight such creationist efforts.

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California

In Segraves v. California, a nonjury trial, began March 2, 1981, in Sacramento County Superior Court. The plaintiff was Kelly Segraves, administrator of the Creation-Science Research Center of San Diego, who was suing on behalf of his children. He was represented by Richard Turner. The defendants were the State Board of Education and the Department of Education, represented by Deputy Attorney General Robert Tyler. The case began early this past year, when a Superior Court judge rejected a petition filed by the Creation-Science Research Center for a temporary restraining order against the use of textbooks that treat evolution as fact. CSRC appealed the dismissal, then dropped it to pursue, instead, a permanent injunction and a chance to take the case to trial on the grounds that the state was violating constitutional law by teaching evolution exclusively. However, after having spent $50,000 in legal costs, CSRC attempted to settle out of court with a compromise. They offered to drop their suit if the state would require teaching evolution as one of a number of theories and stop treating as fact the view that humans developed from earlier forms. This proposed settlement was rejected on February 5, and so the suit went to trial. At the conclusion of the case on March 6, the judge ruled that the state guidelines on the exclusive teaching of evolution do not present it in a dogmatic way and so do not represent a burden on the religious free exercise rights of creationists. However, the judge ordered that the state Board of Education's 1973 policy on avoiding dogmatism in the teaching of origins be sent to all school districts and science teachers in the state, to textbook publishers, and for inclusion in future editions of the guidelines. CSRC is the legal arm of the twenty-thousand-member Bible Science Association, an international organization with local chapters in many communities.

In Livermore, California, a group of parents, most of whom were scientists, challenged an elementary school creation-evolution science class. They declared that Ray Baird, a member of a Christian teachers group, was teaching fifth- and sixth-grade students with inappropriate religious materials. These materials were purchased with school district funds from Creation-Life Publishers, the publishing arm of the Institute for Creation Research. They included books, filmstrips, and audio-visual aids that, in some ways, ridiculed evolution and linked it with Marxism and Nazism. Some of these materials asserted that evolution was the cause of racism and military aggression. Ray Baird admitted that he should have reviewed the materials better before using them and that he had made a mistake—they were not appropriate. The district subsequently reviewed these same materials and stated that they were all "considered to be biased, misleading, inaccurate, prejudicial, and derogatory" and frequently asked students to make a choice between believing in God and believing in evolution. Then, on February 3, 1981, the Livermore school board voted unanimously to stop the teaching of the Bible-based theory of "scientific creationism." The board also ruled that, if it eventually permits the subject to be taught, the teachers must be skilled in the subject and that there should be "an appropriate instructional support system." Furthermore, "instruction about creation beliefs shall be limited to social studies or literature." Ray Baird had taught the class for three years without incident, but this was the first year he had used the Creation-Life materials.

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Florida

This past December, the Hillsborough County School Board voted 4-3 in favor of giving creationism equal time in the county schools. The decision followed several public meetings on the issue in which testimony was heard from both sides. Dr. Gish from the Institute for Creation Research was on hand and spoke persuasively at one meeting, and Richard Bliss, also from ICR, came to town for a newspaper interview during the period of decision. Once the decision was made, the board set up a committee of teachers, citizens, and professionals and ordered this committee to accept materials on how to introduce a "multi-model" approach to origins into the curriculum by the fall of 1981. The board's intent seems to be to have "scientific creationism" taught not only in secondary school science classes but wherever the subject of origins arises and at whatever grade level. The professional staff of the appointed committee has been ordered to write instructional material on origins so as to avoid use of creation texts developed by groups like ICR. The staff is on record as opposing this "multi-model" instruction, but their jobs depend on them following through with the ruling. Their approach, however, is to present the different models with fairness and according to the facts of science and the methods of logic and scientific inquiry.

As a result of this decision, several other counties in Florida are under fire, particularly in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. John V. Betz at the University of South Florida in Tampa was appointed to the Hillsborough board's committee. He regretfully feels that the tide is turning in Florida toward introduction of creationism in Florida's public schools, even though a legislative bill is not in the offing.

Georgia

As promised, creationists tried again in Georgia after this past year's near-passage of a creation bill by both houses of the state legislature. Representative Tommy Smith of Alma introduced a revised version of the 1980 bill. This version prohibited religious instruction, declaring that teaching "shall be limited to scientific evidence for each model and must not include any religious instruction or reference to religious writings." It was read on the floor and then referred to the House Education Committee. However, it died there when Smith decided to withdraw it and save the battle for next year. The reasons for the withdrawal have been hard to determine.

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Spike Brooks, chairman of the 130-member Georgia Citizens' Educational Coalition, said his organization printed brochures to persuade the legislators to oppose the creation measure. The brochures quoted two Georgia pastors and a church report, which claimed that evolution is noncontradictory with the Bible and that many Christians are "theistic evolutionists." Brooks has been in the center of this battle both this year and last, and his organization is an effective foil to creationist efforts. Membership in the Coalition is five dollars. If you wish to join, write to Mr. Brooks at Seven Vista Square, NW, Atlanta, GA 30327, or phone (404) 355-9724.

Louisiana

State Senator Bill Keith tried to push creationism in Louisiana, but apparently to no avail. A subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Committee on Education met to hear pro-creationist testimony from Edward Boudreaux, a University of New Orleans chemistry professor, and two other scientists from the Louisiana State University system. The proposal was for two-model legislation. However, the subcommittee never gathered enough members for a quorum, and legislators walked in and out during the two hours of testimony, sometimes leaving only one legislator in the room. Senator Keith had a similar problem when he introduced a creationism bill in the 1980 session of the legislature. Members of the Senate Education Committee slipped out of a committee meeting, thus avoiding a vote on the issue. Keith, however, has tried to argue that the subject is politically safe, citing a north Louisiana newspaper poll that showed that 75 percent of parents polled were in favor of creationism being taught in public schools. If such legislation is ever passed in the state, there is a good chance that Governor Treen will sign it into law.

Ohio

Teachers in all fields are encouraged, when considering or teaching the origin of life or the universe, to present all major theories, including those of creation and evolution. These should be stressed as theories, rather than established fact, and accorded proper treatment in time, emphasis, and attitude to protect the rights of all students. An adequate amount of reference material shall be provided by the Columbus Public School Libraries to lend support to each theory. Teachers should supplement Board of Education adopted texts with materials which attempt to provide unbiased information about the various theories of the origin of life and the universe."

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The above is an exact quote from the agenda of the Columbus, Ohio, Board of Education meeting of November 18, 1980. The Board heard only three statements from the public on this creation policy, and all were critical of it. The Board then went on to discuss other policies. Once discussion was completed, the vote was taken on all policies under consideration—as one group. The vote was unanimous, seven to zero, to adopt everything, including the policy on origin theory. This policy was first adopted in March 1971 by the unanimous vote of the Board. It was Section 910 of the Administrative Guide, and was entitled "Etiological Theory." The November 1980 vote, then, merely changed it to a "Board Policy on Origin Theory," maintaining the exact original wording. Board member Paul Langdon, who has been on the board for over twenty years, originally worked to get the policy adopted. Biology teachers have, in the past, received ICR creationist books as gifts from Mr. Langdon to use as supplementary teaching material. The Board has not, however, ordered the use of public funds for any creationist textbook purchases.

Oregon and Washington

There is a model creation law floating around this year, the lion's share of which was drafted by Wendell Bird and which is being pushed by Paul Ellwanger's Citizens for Fairness in Education, a South Carolina group. It has already popped up in Washington and Oregon, and was the bell that passed in Arkansas.

The Washington version is House Bill 234. The American Civil Liberties Union geared up for a battle in that state, because the recent conversion of a Senate Democrat to Republicanism suddenly gave both houses of the Washington legislature a Republican majority. Last heard, the bill was still in the Education Committee, but appears doomed to failure as a result of a public hearing.

The Oregon version of the bill is in the Legislative Assembly as House Bill 2633. Though its provisions are rearranged in a slightly different order, careful comparison reveals it as essentially the same model bill, requiring "balanced treatment" in public school science of both creation and evolution. Oregon Attorney General James Brown said that such a requirement is unconstitutional. Furthermore, in December 1980, Brown issued a twenty-page opinion on the matter, which stated that Oregon public schools are not required to teach creation just because they teach evolution. But the same report also said that the teaching of scientific creationism is allowable unless it constitutes religious instruction and that local school boards have the right to decide what constitutes religious instruction.

Whether or not this opinion set off the move to push creationist legislation this year, it certainly did set off a flurry of local school board activity in the state. For example, the school board of Grants Pass voted three to two against passage of a proposed creationist resolution promoted in their district. Nine residents of the district testified against the idea of equal time for creationism, and no one testified for it.

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The Board's ruling declared that the district's existing policy on teaching controversial issues such as origins is sufficient. Said policy requires instructors teaching about the origins of life to acquaint students with various points of view. The regulation says: "The teacher is not to identify any one theory of origin as the way...."

But if Grants Pass got by, the Phoenix-Talent School Board didn't. There were a number of rounds of discussion on the matter, followed by a ruling on January 22, 1981. That ruling resulted in a policy that allows creationism into the science curriculum without actually referring to creationism by name. What the policy says, in four points, is this:

1. Teachers will become knowledgeable concerning major theories (and the evidence upon which they are based) in their area of instruction, particularly those espoused by their students.

2. Teachers will, when instructing students, carefully distinguish evidence, data, and facts from theory, hypothesis, and conjecture.

3. Teachers and others responsible for curriculum content will seek to be unbiased and nonderogatory regarding differing theories in the development of curriculum, class presentations, their choice of reference material, allotments of class time, and evaluations of evidence.

4. Teachers' academic freedom will be preserved in accordance with their negotiated contract in their right to express their personal evaluations of the theories presented, provided they clearly designate these as their own opinions.

The Board approved this policy unanimously after rejecting a much more strict creationist resolution. The new policy has partisans of both sides confused. The creationists want creationism mentioned by name. The local ACLU has stated that if this results in an infringement on anyone's rights, it is willing to take the case all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court.

South Dakota

In the case of Lloyd Dale v. Board of Education, Lemmon Independent School District, the court upheld the firing of Lloyd Dale for giving too much time to creation-evolution in his high school biology class. In spite of the fact that ICR claims this is an example of the "Scopes trial in reverse," the court found Dale was devoting so much class time to the controversy that students began complaining that they were not being taught basic biology. From testimony, it became evident that Dale's desire to devote 30 percent of the course time to creationism resulted in him not covering the required subjects in the text. In fact, so much had been left uncovered in the first three quarters of the school year that it couldn't be made up in the remaining quarter. Eleven of his twenty-five students transferred out of his class. The board never forbade Dale from discussing creationism, but only asked him to not teach it so much that it interfered with the basic material of the course. Dale repeatedly refused to cooperate and so was fired.

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Washington, D.C.

In the case of Crowley v. Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against the creationists on October 30, 1980. The case had begun back in 1978 when creationists sued the Smithsonian Institution in the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C. The suit charged that the Smithsonian was teaching the religion of "secular humanism" by having an evolution display at taxpayers expense, and that said display inhibited the free exercise of religion of certain Christian fundamentalists. The creationists sought an injunction prohibiting the exhibit, "The Emergence of Man," and other similar exhibits, or, as an alternative, asked for an order requiring the museum to commit equal funds to explain creation along the lines of the biblical account in Genesis. The U.S. District Court refused to accept the creationist description of evolution "as, and only as, part of the religion of secular humanism" and did not regard the museum exhibit as expressing hostility to religious theories of creation. The Court further stated that the creationists' free exercise of religion was "not actionably impaired merely because, should they visit the Smithsonian, they may be confronted with exhibits which are distasteful to their religion." Therefore, the court ruled against the creationists. This defeat led the creationists to appeal, but the appeals court, on October 30, 1980, upheld the original decision, further adding that the creationists' appeal was "essentially a challenge to the concept of evolution," and as such was immaterial to the case. The fact that the creationists were able to name one religious group which espoused evolution as a tenet was also regarded as immaterial.

Wisconsin

While in the early stages of constructing a new earth sciences exhibit on origins, the Milwaukee Public Museum was brought under attack in February by the Creation-Science Society of Milwaukee. They wanted the new exhibit to consider their view as well. Robert West, curator of geology at the museum and a subscriber to Creation/Evolution, decided to bring up the possibility of needing to give equal time for flat-earth science if creationism was going to be presented. This effort, fueled by helpful information from Bob Schadewald, gained some notoriety in the local press. In a showdown five creationists met with an equal number of scientists from the museum. However, Walter Brown, director of ICR's midwest center in Illinois, presented the main case.

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Among the pieces of literature he passed out was an item called "The Scientific Case for Creation—103 Categories of Evidence—The Theory of Evolution is Invalid." This involved eleven pages of text and four pages of references. Nonetheless, the creationists failed to convince the museum board to change the planned exhibit. As West quipped about the creationists' appeal to the public's supposed desire for creationism, "Why not fire all the scientists then and have an annual newspaper poll as to what exhibits to place in the museum?" The Smithsonian Institution verdict played a helpful role in this Wisconsin battle.

Related Events

In December 1980, the American Anthropological Association passed overwhelmingly a resolution declaring evolution to be "the best scientific explanation of human and nonhuman biology and the key to understanding the origin and development of life," and stating that efforts to require equal-time teaching of creationism with evolution "are not based on science but rather are attempts to promote unscientific viewpoints in the name of science...."

In Toronto, Canada, at the 1981 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, four scientists—physicist Rolf M. Sinclair of the National Science Foundation; William G. Mayer, director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in Boulder, Colorado; Milton K. Munitz of the City University of New York; and Smithsonian Institution scientist Porter M. Kier—all spoke on the issue of the creation-evolution controversy. Shock was expressed at what the creationists are doing in the schools and the nature of their arguments and tactics. The scientists shouldered much of the blame for the situation themselves. "There has been a real failure in science education and communication of science to the public," said Dr. Sinclair. When a report of this meeting appeared in the January 10, 1981, Science News, however, the reaction was divided." Letters appearing in the January 31 issue took different sides as to which was true —creation or evolution—and took different positions on whether the attack on creationism was justified.

Ever since the project began in the last months of 1980, Committees of Correspondence in defense of evolution have been organized in twenty-five states. The organization of committees in additional states are also under way. Persons interested in helping the defense of scientific rationalism and secular education can join a committee or can help organize one in a state where none yet exists. Information is available from Stan Weinberg in care of this journal.

This version might differ slightly from the print publication.