Texas Rep. Apologizes For Linking Evolution To ‘Pharisee Religion’

A Texas state representative has apologized for distributing a message revealing "long-hidden" evidence supposedly linking the teaching of evolution to ancient Jewish scriptures.

Warren Chisum, an influential Republican who chairs the Texas House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee, said he got the message from Georgia legislator Ben Bridges and forwarded it to the other 149 members of the Texas House.

The message argued that "tax-supported evolution science" is based on religion and is therefore unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

"Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called secular evolution science is the Big Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion," asserted the message.

It went on to say, "This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings on the mystic ‘holy book’ kabbala dating back at least two millennia."

The New York Times was unable to reach Bridges for comment but noted that the document contained contact information for the Fair Education Foundation, a Georgia-based group. That group, in turn, maintains a Web site that argues the Earth is the center of the universe and that it does not rotate. (www.fixedearth.com)

This concept, known as "geocentrism," is championed by a fringe group of creationists who insist that the Earth is the center of a small universe with the sun, planets and stars rotating around it. The Fair Education Foundation bases this claim on "sixty-seven Scriptural references which tell us that it is the sun and not the Earth that moves."

Chisum later claimed he did not take the material seriously, but in a letter accompanying the material, he said that he knows Bridges and added, "[I] greatly appreciate his information on this important topic."

The Anti-Defamation League was stunned that a Texas lawmaker would circulate such charges.

In a Feb. 14 letter to Chisum, Mark L. Briskman, director of the group’s North Texas-Oklahoma regional office, said, "We are shocked and appalled that you would share this outrageous anti-Semitic material with your colleagues in the Texas House."

In a reply letter, Chisum apologized. "I sincerely regret that I did not take the time to carefully review these materials and recognize that I may have hurt or offended some groups including some of my dear friends."

Chisum later told The Times that the material does not reflect his opinion.

In other news about creationism and evolution:

• The Idaho Science Teachers Association has approved a new policy opposing the teaching of "intelligent design" (ID) in public schools.

Members approved the policy in late February. It asserts that ID, the latest variant of creationism, is not science and that it has no place in the science classroom.

"We’re not taking a position against religion," said Rick Alm, president of the group’s board. "It’s just under the context of the law and the public school setting, religion has its place, and it’s not in our science classroom."