NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/06/25
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The Institute for Creation Research suffers a legal defeat in Texas, while Louisiana's politicians are reproached for their anti-science agenda in light of the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
A LEGAL DEFEAT FOR THE ICR The Institute for Creation Research suffered a significant legal defeat in its lawsuit over the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board's 2008 decision to deny the ICR's request for a state certificate of authority to offer a master's degree in science education from its graduate school. A June 18, 2010, ruling in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas found (p. 38) that "ICRGS [the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School] has not put forth evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to any claim it brings. Thus, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the totality of ICRGS's claims against them in this lawsuit." As NCSE's Glenn Branch explained in Reports of the NCSE, "When the Institute for Creation Research moved its headquarters from Santee, California, to Dallas, Texas, in June 2007, it expected to be able to continue offering a master's degree in science education from its graduate school. ... But the state's scientific and educational leaders voiced their opposition, and at its April 24, 2008, meeting, the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board unanimously voted to deny the ICR's request for a state certificate of authority to offer the degree." Subsequently, the ICR appealed the decision, while also taking its case to the court of public opinion with a series of press releases and advertisements in Texas newspapers. The issue was not, strictly speaking, about accreditation, but about temporary state certification, which would have enabled the ICR graduate school to operate while it sought accreditation. When in California, the ICR graduate school was accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which requires candidate institutions to affirm a list of Biblical Foundations, including "the divine work of non-evolutionary creation including persons in God's image." TRACS is not recognized by the state of Texas, however, and after the ICR moved from Santee, California, to Dallas, Texas, the ICR expressed its intention to seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Finally, the ICR filed suit against THECB in 2009, accusing it and its members of imposing "an unconstitutional and prejudicial burden against ICRGS's academic freedom and religious liberties." The prolix style of the ICR's initial complaint -- which the Dallas Observer (April 20, 2009) quipped "reads kind of like stereo instructions" -- was apparently continued in its subsequent documents; the court complained, "It appears that although the Court has twice required Plaintiff to re-plead and set forth a short and plain statement of the relief requested, Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information" (p. 12). In summary, the ICR claimed that THECB's actions violated its rights to free exercise, free speech, and equal protection, its rights to procedural and substantive due process, and its rights under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as that "Standard 12" -- the civil regulation on which THECB's decision was based (19 Texas Administrative Code sec. 7.4(14)) -- was vague. The court found merit in none of these claims. With respect to the free exercise claim, for example, the court found that "the Board’s decision was rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest, and there is no evidence the decision was motivated by animus toward any religious viewpoint" (p. 24). For the court's ruling (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1380 For Branch's article in RNCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/rncse/28/2/setback-icr-texas For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/institute-creation-research-graduate-school-v-paredes-et-al A TIMELY WARNING FROM LOUISIANA As the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico worsens, a columnist finds it ironic that the state's politicians are now "seeking the brightest minds in science and engineering to help" when they "have built their careers by pandering to large anti-science constituencies in our state." Writing in the Shreveport Times (June 19, 2010), Charles Kincade argues that such pandering "will condemn our students to instruction in junk science and dumb down public school curricula. It already has brought our state national ridicule. And, most importantly, it will, unless changed, render us and future generations unable to deal with future challenges, which will increasingly be more scientific and technical in nature." Kincade's targets are Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal, who in 2008 supported and signed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which opened the door for creationism to be taught in the state's public schools, and Louisiana's junior senator, David Vitter, who in 2007 attempted to earmark $100,000 of federal funds to the Louisiana Family Forum -- a religious right group with a long history of promoting creationism and attacking evolution -- "to develop a plan to promote better science education." That plan would have involved a study of the Ouachita Parish School Board's antievolution policy, which was adopted with the LFF's support in 2006, and which subsequently provided the basis for the LSEA. Quoting NCSE's Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott's "The latest face of creationism" (which appeared in the January 2009 issue of Scientific American) as warning that "scientific literacy will be indispensable for workers, consumers, and policymakers in a future dominated by medical, biotechnological, and environmental concerns", Kincade adds, "That future is now. The current Gulf disaster implicates all these concerns. And Jindal's educational policy handicaps future generations' ability to deal with inevitable future crises." He concludes, "unless the anti-science policies of Jindal, Vitter, et al[.] are corrected, and soon, future generations will be unable to function in the modern world." For Kincade's column, visit: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20100619/OPINION03/6190316/1058 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership