Kansas fundie group: Science is a religion, so evolution shouldn't be taught
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Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 07:14:48 PM EST

In what has to stand as one of the dumbest lawsuits in recent memory, a Kansas-based fundie group has filed a federal civil rights suit which seeks to ban the teaching of evolution in Kansas public schools.  They argue that evolution has no place in the classroom because--wait for it--science is a religion.

The group, Citizens for Objective Public Education, had criticized the standards developed by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council for treating both evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts to be taught from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Kansas State Board of Education adopted them in June to replace evolution-friendly standards that had been in place since 2007.

The new standards, like the ones they replaced, reflect the mainstream scientific view that evolution is well-established. Most board members believed the guidelines will improve science education by shifting the emphasis in science classes to doing hands-on projects and experiments.

The nonprofit organization based in the small community of Peck, south of Wichita, was joined in its lawsuit by 15 parents from across the state with a total of 18 children — most of them in public schools — and two taxpayers from the Kansas City-area community of Lake Quivira. The parents say they're Christians who want to instill a belief in their children that "life is a creation made for a purpose."

Read the full complaint here.  It claims that by including evolution in science standards, Kansas is "indoctrinating" students and engaging in "excessive government entanglement with religion" in violation of the First Amendment.  It further argues that Kansas is violating the rights of Christian parents by allowing "only 'materialistic' or 'atheistic' explanations to scientific questions."  Last I checked, only scientific answers were legitimate in science classes.  Then again, most fundies have no concept of what a theory really means, so this ridiculous argument comes as no surprise.

People for the American Way (where I first learned about this crazy lawsuit) discovered that COPE is actually following a strategy that was suggested three decades earlier by John Eidsmoe, one of Michele Bachmann's mentors.  In his 1984 book, God and Caesar, Eidsmoe argued that attacks on evolution should center on the premise that evolution promotes the "religion" of secular humanism.  

COPE's stated mission is to "promote objectivity in public school curricula that address religious questions and issues so that the educational effect of the teaching is religiously neutral."  But the National Center for Science Education did some digging, and to no one's surprise discovered COPE is a stalking horse for creationist advocacy.

In June 2012, as NCSE previously reported, COPE submitted a critique of the then current draft of the Next Generation Science Standards to the Kansas state board of education. Its vice president Anne Lassey told the Associated Press (June 12, 2012) that the group had members around the nation, although it was founded only in March 2012. At the time, COPE's president was Jorge Fernandez, a self-proclaimed young-earth creationist with publications to his credit in Journal of Creation and on the True.Origin Archive website. Fernandez was evidently replaced by Robert P. Lattimer, who was involved with Science Excellence for All Ohioans, a creationist group that tried to undermine the presentation of evolution in Ohio's state science standards in 2002.

Fernandez and Lattimer are not the only people involved with COPE with a history of creationist activity. Its vice president Anne Lassey is married to its treasurer Greg Lassey, who was one of the authors of the so-called minority report of the committee that revised Kansas's state science standards in 2005; the report systematically deprecated the scientific status of evolution. Albert J. Gotch, a member of COPE's board, was the executive director of the Akron Fossils & Science Center, a small young-earth creationist "museum" in the Akron, Ohio, area. Joseph Renick, a member of COPE's board, is the executive director of the New Mexico branch of the Intelligent Design Network, which periodically supports antievolution legislation in the state: in 2011, for example, the group paid for a full-page advertisement in the Albuquerque Journal in support of a (failed) "academic freedom" bill.

In other words--this is classic astroturfing.  Based on their backgrounds, one can only conclude that COPE is actually looking for a way to sneak creationism through the back door.



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