Intelligent-Design Prof. Under Fire At Baylor's Church-State Institute

Descendants of the man who founded a center for church-state studies at Baylor University are angry that a proponent of the neo-creationist "intelligent design" theory is teaching at the institute and serving as its associate director.

Several descendants of J.M. Dawson, a Baylor trustee from 1915-46, want to see Francis J. Beckwith reassigned. They say Beckwith is the wrong man to be associate director at the center due to his ties to the Discovery Institute, a Seattle group that advocates intelligent design, reported the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In an open letter to Baylor President Robert B. Sloan, the descendants said Beckwith's views clash with the center, which has traditionally supported church-state separation.

Reads the letter, "We, the descendants of J.M. Dawson, ask the question, is Baylor University going to maintain its commitment to the separation of church and state? Is the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies going to remain committed to its mission? How can it possibly do so if an associate director is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute, an organization that lobbies for actions that violate the church-state separation principle?"

at the Dawson center. Reassigning Beckwith, they said, would violate his academic freedom.

The Religious Right was quick to rally to Beckwith's defense. On Oct. 8, Focus on the Family issued an e-mail bulletin about the controversy, charging that Beckwith was being attacked for not being "suitably loyal to the evolutionist cause."

The FOF article quoted a student at the center who defended Beckwith, saying, "We're not here to be an adjunct of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State or the ACLU. We're not here to take one side or the other."