Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Creationists swarm BESE meeting

Religious fundamentalists swarmed a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting today, hoping to ensure that new guidelines for teaching science meet their approval.

The board met to implement guidelines mandated by the legislature, ostensibly to guarantee open debate of scientific issues, but believed by many to be an effort to bring religious beliefs into the classroom.

When the issue was debated in the legislature, it was clear that the objective of the bill's supporters was to offer religious explanations alongside scientific theories of human evolution.

Under pressure from the religious activists, the board deleted proposed language that specifically forbade “creationism or intelligent design or (theories) that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.”

Courts - including the U.S. Supreme Court - have ruled that teaching religious explanations for natural phenomena in science class violates the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

Supporters of the bill disingenuously claimed that their plan is not about religion at all, but is intended to make sure that all scientific viewpoints are heard by students.

That prompted LFT President Steve Monaghan to call the guidelines “a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist” because teachers are already encouraged to use alternative materials and present competing theories (as long as they are scientifically valid).

Gannett reporter Mike Hasten covered the meeting for this story. Steve May, editor of The Independent in Lafayette, authored this editorial in opposition to the teaching of religion in science classes.

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