Kansas Voters Spurn Creationist Candidates In Primary Election

Voters in the Aug. 1 primary defeated several candidates for the Kansas State Board of Education who wanted to water down the teaching of evolution, returning the board to moderate hands.

In a closely watched election, Repub­licans were asked to choose among 16 candidates for five open seats. When the dust cleared, results showed that no matter what happens in the general election in November, moderates will control the 10-member board with at least six seats.

In perhaps the most contentious race, creationist incumbent Connie Morris was defeated by moderate Sally Cauble. Morris, a former teacher, had derided evolution as “an age-old fairy tale” and “a nice bedtime story.”

Moderate Jana Shaver, who supports evolution, defeated creationist opponent Brad Patzer for an open seat. Patzer sought the seat of his mother-in-law, Iris Van Meter, a creationist who decided not to run for re-election.

Not all creationists lost. John Bacon and Ken Willard, both of whom supported standards that water down evolution and favor “intelligent design,” won their primaries. Both will face Democrats in November.

Kansas has been enmeshed in a struggle over teaching evolution since 1998, when candidates who favored teaching creationism won a majority on the Board of Education. The board revised state science standards a year later to de-emphasize evolution’s significance.

Moderates regained control of the board in 2000 but lost it two years later. In the interim, the conservative bloc again moved to de-emphasize evolution, this time pushing standards that call for students to learn about “areas where scientists are raising scientific criticisms of the theory.” Opponents said the language was code for intelligent design.

The moderates are expected to ditch the flawed standards in January.

In other news about creationism:

• Church-state separationists are worried that creationist members of the Ohio State Board of Education are preparing for another assault on the teaching of science in public schools.

In June, board member Colleen Grady reportedly urged the board’s Achieve­ment Committee to consider giving 10th-grade science teachers guidance on teaching evolution and other “controversial” issues such as global warming, cloning and stem-cell research. Grady apparently put forward a proposal that would change the language of Ohio’s existing science standards in an effort to reflect religious criticism of evolution and other scientific principles.

The proposal has not been publicly released, but on July 11, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a request under the Ohio open records law that asks for copies of the Grady proposal, as well as all documents and correspondence by the Board of Education and the Department of Educa­tion relating to proposed changes to the state’s science standards.

In January, the board voted 9-8 to affirm state science standards that downplayed evolution. A month later, the board, under pressure from Gov. Bob Taft, reversed itself and voted to drop language that singled out evolution for “critical analysis” and a lesson plan that promoted intelligent design.

• Creationism advocate “Dr. Dino” has been arrested on 58 federal charges, including failure to pay employee-related taxes.

Kent Hovind of Pensacola, Fla., owns a now-defunct creationist museum and theme park in northwest Florida. He is accused of failing to pay federal income tax and failing to withhold employee Social Security and Medicare taxes, among other charges.

Hovind maintains that everything he owns belongs to God and thus is not subject to government taxes.