A public school district in Missouri refused to change plans to sponsor Monday’s high school lecture and visit to a middle school by a creationist lecturer despite warnings by a church-state watchdog group that it violated the Constitution.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter on Friday to school officials in Potosi, Mo., protesting the invitation of Mike Riddle, a full-time “apologetics speaker” for Answers in Genesis, a Kentucky-based Christian ministry that attacks evolution and argues for a literal six-day creation described in the Book of Genesis.
“It is wrong for public schools to promote religion as science,” said Barry Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The Constitution does not permit it, and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against it.”
According to news reports, Randy Davis, superintendent for the PotosiR-IIISchool District, said the assembly would go on as planned. Davis said he wasn’t worried about Riddle bringing religion into public schools, and his background as a trained mathematician and former public high school teacher with a graduate degree in education helped convince the district he was an appropriate guest.
Riddle told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his presentation, entitled “Fascinating Facts About Origins,” would focus on such things as “the laws of thermodynamics,” and ask such questions as: “How could a protein originate by itself? Is that possible?”
Answers in Genesis describes itself as a “Christianity-defending ministry, dedicated to enabling Christians to defend their faith, and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively.”
“We focus particularly on providing answers to questions surrounding the book of Genesis, as it is the most-attacked book of the Bible,” according to the Answers in Genesis Web site. “We also desire to train others to develop a biblical worldview, and seek to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas, and its bedfellow, a ‘millions of years old’ earth (and even older universe).”
In the AU letter to the school district, Richard Katskee, assistant legal director, warned that federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, “have consistently and repeatedly held that creationism and its progeny (‘creation science,’ ‘young-earth science,’ ‘intelligent design,’ and other anti-evolution religious doctrines) cannot be taught in the public schools.”
Last fall, he said, a school district in Dover, Pa., lost a case over teaching intelligent design, and as a result was ordered to pay plaintiffs $1 million for legal fees.
“Simply put, public schools may not lawfully seek to debunk evolution for religious ends, nor may they teach religious views of the origins of life,” Katskee wrote. “The May 8 assembly and classroom presentations by Answers in Genesis will do both.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.