Through most of 1983, Kelly Segraves, who heads the Creation-Science Research Center, fought a losing battle against the San Diego Public Schools. But his efforts give an indication of how he will likely proceed beginning in the Fall of 1984.
Segraves' first action in his recent battle was to write a letter of complaint to the principal of Serra High School in San Diego, where his son Kasey was enrolled in an advanced biology class. His complaint concerned the use in the class of Helena Curtis' highly regarded textbook, Biology. Segraves claimed it dogmatically supported evolution and was therefore in violation of California law. Segraves added statements that continued use of the book could result in "teacher dismissal" and loss of state funding. Segraves also complained about the showing of the PBS Life on Earth program in the same class and said that "a full investigation of this offense has been requested of the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. and a congressional investigation on the Federal level is already in progress."
When Segraves got no satisfaction from the principal, he went to the school board with a 38-page complaint detailing 217 quotations from the Curtis book that Segraves declared show "dogma, bias, error, or unacceptable references to religion." At a crucial school board meeting, Dr. William Thwaites, among others, defended the Curtis book and the teaching of evolution. The Committee of Correspondence was very active in this fight. As a result, the board voted 3-0 against Segraves. In response, Segraves left the room looking jubilant, as if this meant an opportunity to appeal.
And in a sense he did appeal. He wrote a letter to Bill Honig, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, requesting a hearing on the San Diego School Board's refusal to remove the Curtis book. In a later letter he asked Honig to "withhold all State funds from the San Diego School District until this violation has been eliminated." Honig, however, did no such thing. The response Segraves received from the California Department of Education informed him that the law he had cited for withholding state funds had been repealed in 1968, that the Curtis book was not "dogmatic" under state law, and that the San Diego School Board had handled the matter properly.
Other letters to other state and federal officials also failed to bring Segraves satisfaction and his requests for a public hearing were denied. The last chance Segraves will have to involve his son Casey in these public school actions will be the 1984-85 school year when Casey will be a high school senior.
For 14 years, Harry Bert Wagoner, Jr. of Des Moines has been waging war against evolution and losing. His losses have included nine unsuccessful bids for a seat on the Des Moines School Board. His effort in 1983 was his latest but he shows little sign of admitting defeat.
Wagoner began his most recent effort by drawing up a list of 18 creationist books he wanted included in Iowa school libraries and classrooms. He then held meetings throughout the state to get creationist parents to sign petitions demanding that the books be purchased by local schools. Of the 60 school districts in the state, our records show that he succeeded in only two, and the books were placed only in libraries used by teachers. All the other schools rejected or ignored the petitions. To make matters worse for Wagoner, the State Attorney General ruled that the petitions were an illegal procedure.
To beef up his efforts, Wagoner arranged to have Henry Morris come to Iowa to give a series of lectures at fundamentalist churches. Ministers of mainline churches responded with letters and sermons in opposition to Morris and at each of Morris' lectures there were people who opposed his views. The lecture tour resulted in no new school adoptions of the list of books.
As a next move, Wagoner brought a complaint before the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against the Iowa Academy of Science for discriminating against his religion by opposing his efforts to introduce creationist literature into the public schools. He also leveled a similar complaint against the Des Moines school district for not stocking the books. But the Civil Rights Commission threw out his complaints.
Wagoner's line of argument was that creationism is a religion and it is discrimination against his religion to teach only the religion of humanism by teaching evolution alone in public schools. He also argued that evolution was inhibiting the free exercise of religion of creationist students. Wagoner wanted the teaching certificates revoked of teachers who taught evolution without creationism. Such a line of argument has been declared by Jack Novik of the ACLU to be a "sure loser" in any court.
To complete Wagoner's defeat, the National Center for Science Education published Reviews of Thirty-One Creationist Books, edited by Stan Weinberg (see advertisement, this issue). This book of reviews criticizes the leading creationist books that were on Wagoner's list. The book of reviews was distributed free to education agencies throughout Iowa. News publicity over Wagoner's objection to the reviews increased the demand for Weinberg's book. As a result, Iowa schools are now in a better position to judge whether they are interested in the books Wagoner proposed, and if they are, they will know to shelve them under "religion."
What Wagoner's next effort will be cannot be predicted.
After a U.S. District Court judge ruled against the Louisiana "two model" creationism law on the grounds that the Louisiana State Legislature cannot meddle with the public school curriculum, the creationists appealed the case to the Louisiana State Supreme Court. There the judges ruled on October 17, 1983, in a 4-3 decision, that the State Legislature had not usurped the power of the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by establishing curriculum themselves. Thus the court upheld the Legislature's right to order public schools to teach creationism and pass the "two model" law. Though this was a victory for the creationists, the state court did not address the issue of whether the creationism law violated church-state separation. That issue will be dealt with in the U.S. District court, where the case has been referred once again.
The ACLU hopes the U.S. District Court will issue a summary judgment against the creationism law based on the Arkansas ruling. This would avoid a costly trial of the type that took place in Arkansas and in which the ACLU secured nearly $400,000 in legal fees and court costs from that state. If the ACLU won and collected a similar amount in Louisiana, that would be costs the state would have to pay over and above the state's own court costs, which have added up to over $100,000 at this time and would total $400,000 by the time the trial was over. Still, if the ACLU's motion for summary judgment is rejected, then the full blown court battle and media event still won't take place until the end of 1984 or the beginning of 1985, according to predictions by the Louisiana ACLU.
Incidentally, the author of the Louisiana creationism law, Bill Ceith, no longer sits in the State Senate. He was defeated in the November, 1983 election by his opponent, black Shreveport City Councilman Greg Tarver. Nonetheless, Keith remains active as president of the Louisiana chapter of the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund.
With all the battles in Texas over Mel and Norma Gabler and the Texas State Board of Education's anti-evolution rules, it is no surprise to those opposing creationism that Texas scored mostly below the national average in a recent wide-ranging U. S. Department of Education report card on public education. For example, Texas was rated only above Nevada in the percentage of its wealth that is channeled into education. All other states showed a higher percentage of their wealth devoted to schools. Texas came out below average in college entrance exam scores and high school graduation rate as well. This U.S. Department of Education report has gotten many in Texas to take a fresh look at their educational system and its shortcomings and could lead to far-reaching changes.
The Underground Battle
With the failure of "two-model" creationism laws in at least 24 states in recent years, and the devastating court defeat in Arkansas in 1982 of the creationism law passed there, creationists have begun to shift their tactics. They are going from highly-visible legislation and lawsuits to quiet teaching of creationism in schools, legal or not. Creationist teachers are organizing in an effort to further this goal, and have formed the National Association of Christian Educators as part of their campaign. Cases of teachers teaching creationism on their own have surfaced in Michigan, Wisconsin, California, New York, and elsewhere. The Committees of Correspondence and the ACLU are keeping a close eye on these incidents and have taken action when clear evidence has existed.
Probably the greatest concentration of clandestine teaching of creationism is taking place in the Santa Clara Valley and San Francisco Bay Area of California. Creationist efforts have been pinpointed in Livermore, San Jose, Gilroy, and Oakland. To beef up their efforts, creationists in these areas have continued to bring in speakers from the Institute for Creation Research to speak at local churches and in the media.
It should, then, seem quite natural that the national headquarters for the fundamentalist National Association of Christian Educators is located in California. This organization, which is expanding nationwide, is very up-front about its aims. In promoting a November 1983 seminar called "Public Schools in Crisis," Norma Schilling, president of the Santa Clara Valley chapter of NACE, declared in a letter that Bob Simonds, the national president, would "present written materials which you can use in our local classrooms and School Boards." She said he has a plan "to get creation science into our classrooms and humanism out!" and referred to his manual Communicating the Christian World View in the Classroom. She also noted that Richard Bliss would speak at the second half of the seminar teaching the two-model approach. "Get materials you can use in all classes," she said. "Learn of the national upheaval in scientific organizations over the Creation theory of origins. Evolution is on its way out. A new standard (Christ's) is making its impact! Every Christian educator should be a part of this."
This makes it clear that the "two-model" approach is just a step in the direction of creationism being taught alone. In a December 1983 letter from Bob and Jacki Simonds, the national leaders, the overall aims of NACE were brought out.
We have now begun our campaign to start a Christian parents' organization called "Citizens for Excellence in Education." Our goal is to have committees in all 16,000 school districts in America. We can totally change our schools through these parent groups who will influence all our school boards and bring back our Christian values and morality, and a national faith in God. (Emphasis added.)
Their program includes bringing fundamentalist values into all courses of instruction.
In Alberta, Canada, religion is often mixed with education to the point that in many publicly financed grade schools creationism is taught side-by-side with evolution in history and science courses. In Ontario, Canada, creationists have been writing letters to the Ministry of Education to get more creationism taught in that province. And, perhaps most significantly, Baird Judson, a geology professor at the University of P.E.I., is the one public college professor in Canada who is actually teaching creationism in his courses. Judson's introductory geology class is required for engineering students, but not science students, at the university.
A controversy over evolution has erupted in Israel's public schools. Creationists there, who have taken the arguments of American creationists almost verbatim, are demanding the "two-model" approach. Since they are having some success in their efforts, some parents opposed to creationism plan to take the case to Israel's Supreme Court. Israeli creationists tend to be moderately Orthodox Jews or passionate new converts to Orthodoxy.
W. F. Harris, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, had this to say.
If you think creationism a problem in your country perhaps you might take some consolation from the fact that it is nowhere as bad as it is in mine. Evolution is taught in no schools below the level of university. Indeed the stated aim of high school biology courses is to teach the "wonder of Creation." In Sagan's Cosmos carried on national television, Carl's voice was blanked out each time he implied that evolution was a fact!
This is the last installment of the "News Briefs" column. From now on, if you wish to keep up to date on news events in the creation-evolution controversy, you should subscribe to the comprehensive Creation/Evolution Newsletter published by the National Center for Science Education. (See advertisement this issue.)