Creationism in Colorado School District
In recent weeks, Americans United has received several complaints from residents of the Joes, Colo., area concerned about a pending proposal to teach creationism in the Liberty J-4 School District. The move is being spearheaded by Douglas Sanford, a school board member who is also a Baptist minister.
Sanford has proposed adoption of a new policy titled "Creation Science/Evolution Science Education" that would require the district to give "balanced treatment" between evolution and creationism in science classes.
Attorneys with Americans United say the policy, which is scheduled for a vote April 9, is patently unconstitutional and, if enacted, will almost certainly bring about litigation.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, noted that creationism is clearly based on religious principles.
"Public schools serve a diverse student population and may not promote religious doctrine thinly disguised as science," said Lynn, who is an attorney as well as a Christian minister. "It is unconstitutional to turn our public schools into Sunday schools."
Continued Lynn, "To respect both religious freedom and sound science education, the Liberty board must vote down this proposal."
In an April 5 letter to the board, Americans United Legal Director Ayesha Khan and Legal Fellow Allison Pierce noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 struck down a "balanced treatment" law from Louisiana and that numerous lower federal courts have since then declared creationism unconstitutional in public schools.
"We are writing to inform you that the proposed policy is grossly unconstitutional and to ask that you refrain from approving it," observes the AU letter.
Elsewhere, the letter requests that the board vote against the policy "in order to avoid legal action" and requests a reply within 30 days.
The Americans United protest also refutes claims that the proposed school district policy is permitted by new federal education legislation. Creationism advocates in Colorado and elsewhere contend that language in the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" allows public schools to offer creationism.
AU attorneys note, however, that the law does no such thing. A provision in the Act's "conference report" addresses instruction about evolution, but the wording does not in any way override the First Amendment's separation of church and state and court rulings enforcing that constitutional concept.
AU attorneys note, however, that the law does no such thing. While a report accompanying the new law mentions instruction on evolution, the law itself does not address the issue at all. Furthermore, congressional statutes do not in any way override the First Amendment's separation of church and state and court rulings enforcing that constitutional concept.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.