Members of the Blount County, Tenn., Board of Education have rejected three biology textbooks that they say place too much emphasis on evolution while slighting creationism.
At an April 4 meeting, the board voted 2-1 to reject the books, with four members refusing to participate in the vote. Board members Mike Treadway and Jean Simerly voted against the books, with member Don McNelly casting the sole supportive vote, reported the Marysville Daily Times.
Treadway later said he was dismayed that the books failed to discuss creationism. "With the overwhelming references to evolution, I don't feel comfortable with [adopting these books]," he said.
Simerly concurred, remarking, "I do not believe that we evolved from anything other than human beings."
Even McNelly criticized the books for failing to teach creationism, calling it "a large gaping hole in the books." He asserted, however, that the books should be adopted with the understanding that teachers could supplement them with instruction about creationism.
Brian Bell, the school's technology supervisor, noted that the three books are on the state's approved textbook list. Since they were rejected, he said science teachers in the county would have to write their own curriculum that includes creationism. Once that is done, he said, the board would probably approve the books.
Advocates of church-state separation point out one huge flaw in the proposal: The U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 struck down a Louisiana law requiring "balanced treatment" between evolution and creationism in public schools. Creationism, a religious concept that maintains that the Book of Genesis is literally true, cannot be legally taught in public schools.
Americans United's Legal Department brought this fact to the attention of the board and county school officials in a May 7 letter.
"We are writing to inform you that it is grossly unconstitutional to permit the teaching of creationism in public schools and to ask that you reject any curriculum that does so," AU Legal Director Ayesha Khan wrote.