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ACLU says creationism bill faces constitutional problems

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana's top lawyer said Thursday that a Indiana Senate bill that would allow schools to teach creationism in science classes clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and invites legal challenges.

U.S. Supreme Court precedents "going back many years" have established the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in public schools, Ken Falk said.

"The idea that somehow our state legislature can trump the Constitution just doesn't make sense," Falk said in a news release issued by the ACLU. "When lawmakers propose legislation they clearly know will end up in the courts, it wastes valuable time and resources, disrespects the legislative process and confuses an already complicated issue."

The Senate Education Committee voted 8-2 Wednesday to send the bill before the full Senate despite experts and even some senators saying teaching creationism likely would be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in court. The bill's prospects for advancing to the House weren't certain Thursday. Next Wednesday is the deadline for bills originating in the Senate to win approval from the full chamber.

Falk said the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard struck down a Louisiana statute that required instruction on evolution to be accompanied by teaching on "creation science." The court found that the Louisiana statute had no identifiable secular purpose, but that the "pre-eminent purpose of the Louisiana Legislature was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind."

The Indiana Senate bill doesn't require instruction of creationism, but allows it.

In committee debate Wednesday, Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said there are legitimate questions about the theory of evolution and that many scientists agree with the concept of intelligent design, the theory that life on Earth is so complex it had to be created by an intelligent higher power.

"What are we afraid of? Allowing an option for students including creation science as opposed to limiting their exposure?" Schneider said.

Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said he knew of nothing in state law that prohibits public schools from teaching creationism. He said he sponsored the bill because he believes creationism should be taught among the theories on the development of life and that the proposal wouldn't force any changes in schools teaching evolution.

Some committee members suggested that they would support amending the bill in the full Senate to instead encourage schools to teach about the world's religions in literature or history classes. Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, voted in favor of the bill even though it called its current form a "lawyer's dream."

Falk said that since public school curriculum must always serve a secular educational purpose, religion can be taught if the purpose is to examine religion's role in history, art, literature, society or other secular subjects. He said religion can only be taught in an objective, unbiased manner that does not promote or criticize any particular religion or set of beliefs.

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  • "Theory"
    The "theory of gravity" is also a theory, if you want to test it jump off a bridge. Scientific theory means it can be tested and proved while Creationism cannot be tested or proved. Science can be tested and proved, religion cannot. Calling Creationism a theory is more of a courtesy, it should be more like the "Idea of Creationism"
  • Scientific Theory
    You profess "amazement" at the lack of knowledge in this matter, and then demonstrate a lack of knowledge as to the distinction between the way the term "theory" is used in science and the way it is used in common conversation.

    A scientific theory is "an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena." This is distinct from a "hypothesis" which is an explanation that has not yet been tested or confirmed. It's also distinct from a "fact" which is something that can be directly observed and measured. Theories correlate and interpret the facts.

    For example, "it is a fact is that fossil skulls have been found that are intermediate in appearance between humans and modern apes." A theory explains why that might be.

    A scientific theory is distinct from a scientific law primarily in that a "law" describes how something works; whereas a "theory" explains why something works that way.

    In short, while in common discussion, "theory" can mean "wild-ass guess," in science, that's not what "theory" means at all.
  • Need New Legislators
    Indiana Republicans can't leave the stupidity alone. Religious pre-marital counseling, trying to create a new bureaucracy around the "proper" singing of the National Anthem,setting unlicensed, untrained hairdressers loose on an unsuspecting citizenry, and now creation myth as fact (once again). There must be no serious work to do in their opinions, as they continue to waste time with such ill-advised ignorance such as this. I will vote for Joe Blow from Kokomo before i will lift a lever in favor of any incumbent.

    Get serious, Legislature. That is what we pay you for, not to make Indiana look like a bunch of idiots run the state. Even if they do.
  • It's ok to think......
    I have been reading the comments on this legislation for the past two days and am amazed by the actual lack of education on this topic. The fact is that evolution is a theory. It is called "The Theory of Evolution" because it lacks answers to some very big questions. It is based on a truth of something already existing to evolve. It lacks the answers to some very scientific questions such as: When has nothing ever created something? When has non-life ever produced life? When has unconsciousness ever produced consciousness? When has randomness ever produced fine tuning? When has non-reason ever produced reason? Even Darwin understood the flaws of his theory when he knew that the fossil records did not (and still do not) support his beliefs (given that time was supposed to prove his evolution theory correct yet fossil records have never shown a link to amphibian to fish or fish to reptile, etc.). Evolution has only been scientifically proven on a micro scale (meaning adaptation within that species) and the missing link(s) needed to prove it on a macro level has eluded scientific discovery since the beginning of its search. Is the thought of an intelligent designer really that crazy when the actual science that everyone seems to be basing their faith on proves that something cannot come or evolve from nothing? That is not religion. That is fact. I think the real tragedy is that most students are not challenged to think about these things, but instead pushed a theory that just seems to make sense because certain pieces do. The fact is that the evolution that is taught in our schools is based on some facts and many assumptions (but the assumptions are never taught). Perhaps allowing the idea to teach information about both ends could allow a student to actually use their own brains to research the truth about this subject. Novel concept.
  • Missing Link
    If evolution is science and science is factual, then why does the theory of creationism exist? The answer is because the "missing link" has not been found. Absent this factual piece of the puzzle, creationism stands it's ground in faith and reason. Though some people act as if they are one generation descendants from protozoic life, creationism should have it's allotted time in the school curricular. You may have made your decision about which method is the correct way that man has come to exist, why not let the future students make the same decision for themselves?
  • Comparative Religion - OK
    DaveB,
    I think comparative religion should be taught in schools as well. When I was young, it was helpful to me to study and understand the basic tenets of the world's most popular religions. I learned it in social studies classes. I don't know what would prevent that from happening now. But it's not done in science or biology class, it's done in social studies or world history where it has a cultural context, not a scientific context.
  • Religion & Epistemology
    Schools should be free to teach about creationism, but not as science. Creationism should come up in classes about comparative religions and in philosophy classes about epistemology -- a class about "how we know what we know." In such a class, the merits and limitations of science should be discussed along with a similar discussion about the merits and limitations of religious revelation as reliable sources of human knowledge.
  • What is everyone afraid of?
    Yes current teachings are based on science, which is funny. They could not disprove it, so it is fact! They can't disprove or prove alot of things taught to be true. Actually, I think the best approach is open teaching to world religions in school. Let everyone learn why people believe the way they do. They can make the choice they want out in the world, but at least have some reasoning behind how other religions work. I have had alot of teachers that teach evolution and state it is not what they believe to be correct anyway. Learning history can help us not make the same mistakes made in the past.
    • Believe It
      I think it was the Flying Spaghetti Monster or that the earth was created last week by Ed.
    • Creationism scam legislation
      If the current proposed legislation for teaching "creationism" as science in public schools passes, I will be the first in line to file a lawsuit to challenge it. "Creationism" is nothing more than religion cloaked in the guise of science. I has NO proven scientific basis, uses only the bible as its source. Therefore it is nothing more than approach to teach one brand of religious philosophy. The bible is not and never has been proven to be a true, objective, identifiable source for either history or science, since its authorship has spanned centuries and its original documents have been changed and reinterpreted by hundreds of vocal renditions, scribes, politics, and translations. There is no one authoritative source of the biblical writings and no proof of the actual authors of the various writings. The biblical writings can only be subjectively interpreted since no original documents or sources survive. There is absolutely NO objective proof of the existence of a "god" or "divine being" that created the universe, earth or life. It is all religious/faith-based subjectivity. And it is unconstitutional to be taught in public schools as science or fact.
    • FSM
      Equal time should be given to the theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. As Bobby Henderson put it when Kansas was pulling this stuff, "I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence."
    • Logic Fail
      Would we also teach the Scientologists view of how the world began? Would we also teach the world rests on Atlas's shoulders? These hypothosis have just as mush scientific backing as creationism....This story makes me ashamed for our state.

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