An effort by Georgia education officials to remove the word "evolution" from the state's public school science standards represents a cave-in to fundamentalist religious groups and will harm the education of young people in the state, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has charged.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Jan. 29 that new state science guidelines omit the word "evolution" entirely. Science teachers, university professors and curriculum experts worked as part of a panel to update the state's science standards, but State School Superintendent Kathy Cox removed the term "evolution" from the committee's final product, referring instead to "biological changes over time."
"The first victims of this cave-in to the Religious Right will be the schoolchildren of Georgia," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It is wrong to alter the public school curriculum just because a few influential religious interest groups object. Education officials need to reverse this decision right away."
Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister, noted that objection to instruction about evolution is spearheaded by fundamentalists who want their literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis taught as science.
"The courts have been clear on this matter," said Lynn. "Teaching creationism in public schools is a violation of the First Amendment. It is also unconstitutional to remove evolution from the science curriculum at the behest of powerful religious interests."
Added Lynn, "Denying young people instruction about evolution is an additional disservice to students who go on to college, where evolution is taught without controversy."
The Journal-Constitution reported that Superintendent Cox supported the teaching of creationism in Cobb County, Ga., public schools. Asked about the issue in 2002, Cox said "it was a good thing for parents and the community to stand up and say we want out children exposed to this [creationism] idea as well."
Georgia education officials are accepting public comment on the proposed standards through mid-April. Lynn urged Georgians who support church-state separation to make their voices heard.
"If people who value church-state separation and strong public schools don't speak up now," Lynn said, "the Religious Right will continue to censor science education in Georgia."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.