AU Urges Texas School Board To Reject Religious Indoctrination In Science Classes

New Science Standards May Spark Litigation If Creationism Is Taught In Schools, Church-State Watchdog Group Says

The Texas Board of Education should remove language from proposed science standards that opens the door to teaching religious concepts in public schools, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“Texas can either have world-class science standards or allow fundamentalists to sneak religion into classrooms through the back door,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It can’t do both.”

The board has been deliberating the science curriculum for months. At issue is a set of standards known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The science standards are under review, and a faction on the board insists on using them to promote religion.

In December, a curriculum-writing team proposed standards that emphasize sound science. The following month, the board adopted the standards but added language that scientific, educational and civil liberties organizations say would compromise the teaching of evolution.

The board will meet March 26 to discuss the issue with a final vote scheduled for March 27.

In a letter to the board today, Americans United urged members to uphold sound science and reject any schemes intended to advance religion in the classroom.

Noting that religious instruction belongs in the home, not public schools, AU State Legislative Counsel Dena S. Sher argues that the language in the standards could lead to litigation.

“Americans United recommends that the Board proceed with caution in adopting the standards approved at the January Board meeting because courts have determined that undermining evolution like the January amendments do is unconstitutional,” wrote Sher. “Americans United remains vigilant of students’ and parents’ rights to have sound science, rather than religious belief, taught in public-school science classrooms and will not hesitate to challenge any introduction of religion into Texas’s public schools.”

The federal courts have repeatedly struck down Religious Right attempts to push religion in public school science classes. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard invalidated a Louisiana statute requiring science educators to “balance” teaching evolution concepts with “creation science” concepts.

In 2004, Americans United and the ACLU challenged the promotion of “intelligent design” creationism in Dover, Pa., public schools. A year later a federal district court ruled in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that such governmental advocacy of religion is unconstitutional.

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.

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.