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Creationist legal dispute resolved: Evolution education update: May 1, 2009

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  • Carol Smith
    Dear Friends of NCSE, A legal dispute between two creationist organizations is settled, while the lawsuit against the University of California system is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2009
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      Dear Friends of NCSE,

      A legal dispute between two creationist organizations is settled,
      while the lawsuit against the University of California system is
      continuing on appeal. And it's not too late to enter Florida Citizens
      for Science's cartoon contest!


      Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International have agreed
      to settle their legal dispute, issuing a joint statement reading,
      "Each ministry is now focused on its respective mission, having put
      this dispute behind them." As the Cincinnati Enquirer (April 27, 2009)
      reported, "The dispute arose more than four years ago as the American
      ministry, Answers in Genesis, grew more wealthy and influential than
      the original group in Australia, Creation Ministries International.
      The one-time allies waged court battles in both countries and accused
      one another of mishandling donors' money, using 'gutter tactics' to
      discredit their opponents and threatening the creationist movement
      with 'ruthless' business decisions."

      The Australian (April 30, 2009) quipped, "Ken Ham [of AiG] and Carl
      Wieland [of CMI] believe the world was created in six days, so the
      four years it has taken Australia's most prominent creationists to
      conclude a civil case that began ... in 2005 must seem an eternity."
      Neither ministry was willing to comment to the press on the terms of
      the settlement, and CMI, which previously provided a host of documents
      relevant to the dispute on its website, is now providing only the text
      of the joint statement. For background on the dispute, see Jim
      Lippard's report for Reports of the NCSE, Lippard's updates on his
      blog, and Michael McKenna's report for The Australian (June 5, 2007).

      For the report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, visit:

      For the report in The Australian, visit:

      For the background, visit:


      The appeal of Association of Christian Schools International et al. v.
      Roman Stearns et al. is wending its way through the appeals process,
      with the University of California system submitting its responsive
      brief, and a number of organizations submitting amicus curiae briefs,
      in April 2009. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los
      Angeles on August 25, 2005, centers on the University of California
      system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the
      qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the
      Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel
      Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at
      the school -- charged that the university system violated the
      constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high
      school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. The
      defendants prevailed on August 8, 2008, but the plaintiffs promptly
      appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

      Although creationism is not the only issue in the case, it is a
      prominent part of it. The plaintiffs object, inter alia, to the
      university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses
      that use creationist textbooks -- Biology: God's Living Creation,
      published by A Beka Books, and Biology for Christian Schools,
      published by Bob Jones University Press -- as "inconsistent with the
      viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific
      community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design"
      creationism, served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs, although
      his defense of the creationist biology textbooks was unavailing.
      Wendell Bird, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, is a former
      employee of the Institute for Creation Research; he defended
      Louisiana's 1981 "equal time" act all the way to the Supreme Court,
      where it was ruled to violate the Establishment Clause in the decision
      in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).

      In its appeal of the August 2008 decision, filed on January 26, 2009,
      the plaintiffs asserted that the University of California system "has
      rejected a large number of biology courses because, despite their
      standard content, they added a religious viewpoint" (p. 21), which
      "constitutes viewpoint discrimination, content discrimination, and
      content-based regulation, which conflict with the First Amendment" (p.
      24). In their reply, filed on April 10, 2009, the defendants replied
      that the courses were rejected because they used the creationist
      textbooks as their primary texts, and a review of those textbooks
      "concluded they were inappropriate for use as primary texts in college
      preparatory science courses due to their characterizations of
      religious doctrine as scientific evidence, scientific inaccuracies,
      failure to encourage critical thinking, and overall un-scientific
      approach" (p. 21) -- a judgment with which Donald Kennedy and NCSE
      Supporter Francisco Ayala, experts for the defendants, concurred.

      Two amicus curiae briefs -- one from the American Center for Law and
      Justice, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the
      Common Good Foundation, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church State
      Council; the other from the National Legal Foundation -- have been
      filed on behalf of the plaintiffs; neither discusses creationism. Four
      amicus curiae briefs -- from the American Historical Association &
      Organization of American Historians, the American Association of
      University Professors, the California Council of Science and
      Technology, and the California State University system and the
      University of Nevada, Las Vegas -- have been filed on behalf of the
      defendants. Of these, only the California Council of Science and
      Technology's brief discusses creationism, which is perhaps not
      surprising, since the brief was coauthored by attorneys from Pepper
      Hamilton LLP who were part of the legal team representing the
      plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case over "intelligent
      design" creationism.

      The summary of the argument from the California Council of Science and
      Technology's amicus brief (pp. 3-4) deserves full quotation:


      As a public institution of higher education, UC has the responsibility
      to produce college graduates who have satisfied its rigorous academic
      standards in all relevant disciplines, including science. In order to
      fulfill this responsibility, UC must be allowed to choose among
      applicants for admission into the UC system based on the applicants'
      demonstrated understanding of important foundational concepts. In the
      area of science, two such foundational concepts are the nature of
      science and the theory of evolution. UC acted appropriately in not
      giving "d" credit to certain high school science courses that used the
      Biology for Christian Schools and Biology: God's Living Creation
      textbooks because these textbooks do not teach either concept in an
      appropriate manner and in fact advance fundamental misconceptions
      about both concepts. Students educated with these textbooks will not
      be adequately prepared for science courses at UC.

      The need for high-quality post-secondary science education has never
      been greater, either in California or the United States as a whole.
      Science and technology are recognized as key economic drivers.
      Unfortunately, both California and the United States are losing ground
      in these critical areas, in large part because of the inability of
      colleges and universities to produce enough highly qualified science
      and technology graduates. The prosperity of the state and nation in
      the 21st century depends on the reversal of this trend and the
      production of more university graduates well educated in science and
      technology. In light of this critical need, UC should be encouraged to
      take all reasonable measures to ensure that the students admitted into
      the UC system have a solid grounding in foundational scientific
      concepts upon matriculation.


      The brief, along with all of the documents mentioned here, is
      available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v.

      For information about the case, visit:


      Just a month remains to submit entries to Florida Citizens for
      Science's cartoon contest! At the FCFS blog (April 1, 2009), Brandon
      Haught explains, "The basic concept here is to draw a cartoon that
      educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about
      science (or for the 12-year-old and under folks, a cartoon about 'why
      understanding science is important')." And lack of artistic ability
      isn't a problem: "all entries must be drawn using stick figures. This
      is about creative ideas, not artistic ability."

      Entries are due (by e-mail or post) by May 31, 2009. Prizes include
      various books, movies, and toys. Judges are NCSE's executive director
      Eugenie C. Scott, Phil Plait, the author of Bad Astronomy and Death
      from the Skies!; Carl Zimmer, the author of Evolution: The Triumph of
      an Idea and Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life; and Kate
      Miller, the founder of the evolution toystore Charlie's Playhouse.
      Full details of the contest are available on FCFS's website.

      For Haught's blog post, visit:

      For full details of the contest, visit:

      Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website --
      http://www.ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on
      evolution education and threats to it.


      Glenn Branch
      Deputy Director
      National Center for Science Education, Inc.
      420 40th Street, Suite 2
      Oakland, CA 94609-2509
      510-601-7203 x310
      fax: 510-601-7204

      Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition!

      Not in Our Classrooms:  Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

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