Appeal in COPE v. Kansas


The dismissal of a creationist lawsuit seeking to prevent Kansas from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards on the grounds that doing so would "establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview" is now under appeal. The Associated Press (December 31, 2014) reports that the plaintiffs in COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al. filed a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on December 30, 2014. 

As NCSE previously reported, the complaint contended (PDF) that the NGSS "seek to cause students to embrace a non-theistic Worldview ... by leading very young children to ask ultimate questions about the cause and nature of life and the universe ... and then using a variety of deceptive devices and methods that will lead them to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic explanations." Both the Big Bang and evolution were emphasized as problematic.

In a December 2, 2014, order (PDF), Judge Daniel D. Crabtree of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case. The decision did not address the content of the complaint, instead finding that that the Kansas state board of education and the Kansas state department of education enjoyed Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity against the suit and that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any of their claims.

As NCSE previously reported, the lead plaintiff, COPE, Citizens for Objective Public Education, is a relatively new creationist organization, founded in 2012, but its leaders and attorneys include people familiar from previous attacks on evolution education across the country, such as John H. Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network. The Kansas board of education voted to adopt the NGSS in June 2013, and the lawsuit in effect attempted to undo the decision.

The NGSS have been adopted in thirteen states — California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia — plus the District of Columbia. The treatment of evolution and climate science in the standards occasionally provokes controversy (especially in Wyoming, where the legislature derailed their adoption over climate science), but COPE v. Kansas is the only lawsuit to have resulted.