Officials at an Oregon high school have fired a biology teacher who distributed fundamentalist Christian material in class and compared the theory of evolution to Nazism.
Kris Helphinstine was hired by the Sisters School District in central Oregon to teach evolutionary biology, but he quickly departed from the accepted curriculum. In a supposed attempt to “give accurate information” and get kids thinking, Helphinstine distributed an essay from Answers in Genesis, a fundamentalist Christian ministry that wants “young-Earth creationism” taught in public school science classes.
Young-Earth creationists insist that the planet is only 6,000 years old, believe dinosaurs lived alongside humans and say the Book of Genesis is literally true. They attack evolution, insisting that humans have no relation to other forms of life.
The Answers in Genesis essay Helphinstine distributed is authored by Ken Ham, an Australian creationist. In the essay, Ham argues that dogs like poodles are the result of God’s curse on creation for man’s sin in the Garden of Eden.
“Dogs like poodles are the result of the Curse!” Ham writes. “Each time I arrive home and our pet Bichon races to the door to meet me, I am reminded of my sin, that I, in Adam, sinned and ushered in the Fall.”
Helphinstine, 27, also showed a power point presentation linking evolution to eugenics, Nazi medical experiments in concentration camps and Planned Parenthood.
The Associated Press reported that the school board dismissed Helphinstine after parents complained that his “supplemental materials” didn’t teach about evolution and were confusing their children. He had been on the job for only eight days.
“I thought he departed from the accepted curriculum,” school board President Michael Gould told Religion News Service. “And he exercised poor judgment on some material in a sensitive area.”
Helphinstine admitted that it was inappropriate to show slides of Nazi death camps to the freshmen and sophomore students. He also said he would not bring creationism up again, but did not seem to realize the gravity of his mistake.
“The goal of teachers is to present the facts while concealing their own biases,” he told the Portland Oregonian.
Although Helphinstine refused to talk about his personal beliefs concerning evolution and creationism, a former college professor noted that Helphinstine comes from a conservative Christian background.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that public schools may not teach about creationism alongside evolution in science classes, holding that the former is a religious concept. Nevertheless, the issue continues to roil many communities. Most recently, some creationists have repackaged their ideas, removed some of the more outlandish claims about the age of the Earth and are pushing them as “intelligent design.”