Last night’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on the subject of creationism provided no real surprises to anyone on either side of the issue. But the event, which drew an incredible audience of roughly 500,000 online viewers in addition to a sold-out live audience, didn’t just hold interest for scientists.
The biology curriculum used by a system of taxpayer-supported charter schools in Texas promotes creationism in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.
A company called Responsive Education Solutions runs charter schools in several states, most of them in Texas. These schools receive millions in taxpayer support every year.
It’s that time of year when people are compiling lists. So let’s look at the Top Ten Church-State Stories of 2013.
1. Greece, N.Y., prayer case argued before U.S. Supreme Court: An Americans United-sponsored lawsuit challenging legislative prayer in the city of Greece, N.Y., reached the Supreme Court.
Yesterday before the government shut down, famous scientists Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins made a foray to Capitol Hill and spoke to House and Senate staff.
The events, sponsored by the Secular Coalition for America, covered a range of topics. Not all of them were relevant to Americans United’s work, but some, such as the teaching of evolution in public schools and the threat to science posed by the Religious Right, were dead on.
Americans United has reported frequently on the slew of Religious Right groups trying to test and redefine the bounds of “religious liberty.” Now it seems yet another organization has joined the fray, claiming that teaching evolution in public schools forces atheism on students and violates the “religious liberty” of some parents.
The Religious Right’s creationist campaign continues to threaten Texas public schools.
The controversy began when Texas’ State Board of Education appointed a number of creationists to review panels meant to ensure the quality of new biology textbooks. Despite valid concerns raised by watchdogs like the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), creationists remained on the panels.
Back in the early 1990s, I helped an Americans United activist in Missouri fend off efforts by a small-town school board to insert creationism into science classes.
We were frustrated. We had explained to the members of the board that what they wanted to do was unconstitutional and would run afoul of the 1987 Supreme Court decision Edwards v. Aguillard (at the time a fairly new opinion). They were not swayed.
We always like to report positives, and this week the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) delivered some very good news: legislation aimed at pushing creationism in public schools failed in eight states this year.
The bills ranged from subtly promoting so-called “academic freedom” to openly attacking evolution by offering “equal treatment” for creationism and “intelligent design.” They’re all bad ideas intended to inject religion into biology classes, and we’re very happy to see they failed.