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Impending battle over supplementary material in Texas

The Texas Freedom Network warns, in a January 20, 2011, press release, that "the war on science is officially back on in Texas." The opening salvo was the appearance of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics — perhaps best known as the publisher of Of Pandas and People — on a list of publishers intending to submit supplementary science curriculum material for approval by the Texas state board of education.

Of Pandas and People is the "intelligent design" textbook that was at the center of Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case in which the teaching of "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional. During the trial, Barbara Forrest's argument that "intelligent design" was a relabeling of creationism was bolstered by the fact that in drafts of Of Pandas and People, the word "creation" was systematically replaced with the word "design" just after the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that teaching creationism in the public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Before the trial, FTE unsuccessfully sought to intervene in the case by becoming a co-defendant along with the Dover Area School Board. In a July 2005 hearing, FTE's president Jon Buell told the court that FTE was not a religious organization — only to be confronted on cross-examination with a copy of FTE's tax return, on which its primary purpose was described as "promoting and publishing textbooks presenting a Christian perspective," and a copy of its articles of incorporation, according to which its purposes include "making known the Christian gospel and understanding of the Bible."

Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller commented, "In 2009 the State Board of Education approved new science curriculum standards that opened the door to creationist materials in Texas classrooms. Today we saw that one prominent creationist group intends to walk through that door." Miller added, "Getting their materials in public schools has long been a top priority for creationists, and it's clear that they intend to make Texas their flagship. Teaching inaccurate information rejected by the scientific community would be a huge disservice to Texas kids and a major setback for science education everywhere."

Materials submitted for approval will be available for public review in March 2011 and will also undergo review by panels of citizens, educators, and scientists to ensure their conformity to the state's science standards and their factual accuracy. The state board of education is expected to vote on the materials in April 2011; materials approved by the board will be available for purchase by local school districts.