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
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
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.