AU Warns Louisiana Officials Not To Open Door To Creationism

A new policy under consideration by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is slanted to favor creationism and should be revised, Americans United advised officials in a recent letter.

Due to lobbying by the Religious Right, Louisiana legislators approved a law in 2008 that allows for “supplemental materials” to be used in public school science classes. The Board has developed a policy for reviewing these materials that is seriously flawed, says Americans United.

“It’s obvious what’s going on here,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Louisiana elected officials are once again trying to undercut the teaching of evolution and slip creationism into science classes. This effort must fail.”

In a Dec. 31 letter sent to the Board, Americans United warns that the proposed review policy is constitutionally suspect because it appears to open the door for creationist concepts to be taught in public schools.

The Board calls for allowing challenged materials to be reviewed by a panel that could easily be stacked with people sympathetic to creationism. It would bypass the expert opinion of the Louisiana Department of Education.

“The proposed procedure for reviewing challenged supplemental material is unnecessarily complicated and appears designed to provide a forum for promoting creationism,” asserts AU’s letter.

The letter notes that the Board’s proposal “would create the opportunity for a show trial with ‘experts’ presenting reports” that attempt to portray creationist supplemental materials as scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.

The Louisiana Family Forum, a state affiliate of Religious Right leader James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, pushed for adoption of the new law and will likely try to use it to smuggle creationist materials into public schools.

In fact, AU’s letter points out, the U.S. Supreme Court and several lower federal courts have struck down the teaching of creationism in public schools. The Board’s proposed policy, AU says, is “unfair and illogical” and “appears to have the unconstitutional purpose of promoting religion.”

The letter was written by Dena S. Sher, Americans United’s state legislative counsel. It was sent to Jeanette Vosburg, executive director of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Americans United Board of Trustee member Barbara Forrest also warned the Board not to allow creationism into public schools. Forrest, co-author of the book Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, sent a four-page missive to the Board Jan. 2 warning members that the complaint procedure is faulty.

The National Center for Science Education also weighed in. Eugenie C. Scott, the group’s executive director, outlined problems with the proposed policy in a letter to the Board.

Scott asserted that the review policy “is biased against the scientific and constitutional concerns of parents, and we ask that the policy be revised.”