Governor's race 2010: Creationism in public schools

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom, but it does not permit religious theory to be taught as science in the public school system.

Tomorrow: The candidate's views on gay marriage.

That reading of the Constitution has been backed by several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, each striking down attempts to teach creationism — the belief that God created the universe and humankind — alongside evolution in science class.

In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Louisiana's Creationism Act that prohibited the teaching of evolution unless it was paired with teachings in creationism.

Such precedent would seemingly extinguish efforts to teach creationism in public schools. But this year the debate has been reignited locally and nationally by candidates who have expressed support for teaching creationism or "intelligent design" alongside evolution.

Proponents argue that students should be allowed to consider both theories.

Opponents say teaching creationism, a religious belief, is designed to undermine the proven science of evolution, thus confusing students and potentially indoctrinating them in a specific state-sponsored religion and violating the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

The creationism debate has recent context. In 2008, 11 years after the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's Creationism Act in Edwards v. Aguillard, that state's Legislature passed a bill permitting local school districts to create curriculum that allows "critical thinking" and "objective discussion" about evolution.

The National Center for Science Education, which describes the provision as a backdoor approach to subvert evolution science, is contesting the law.

The law doesn't mention creationism or intelligent design. However, it appears to have emboldened pro-creationists. According to a July 24 report in The Advocate, in Louisiana, the Livingstone Parish School Board discussed adding creationism to the district's curriculum.

Here's where gubernatorial candidates stand on the issue.

Eliot Cutler, 64, independent

Cutler said it's unacceptable to teach creationism in public schools.

"I believe the government should not be making rules for religion and religion should not be making rules for government," he said.

John Jenkins, 58, independent

Jenkins opposes creationism being taught in public schools.

"Whose religion are we talking about?" he said. "People who follow Islam have a different idea about creation than those who follow Judaism, and on and on. Whose creation are we talking about? No, no, I wouldn't support that. Not at all."

Libby Mitchell, 70, Democrat

Mitchell said creationism is an appropriate discussion in church, but not in the public school system.

"There's no scientific evidence to support (creationism)," she said.

Paul LePage, 61, Republican

LePage's stance on creationism has generated the most controversy.

His position has become more ambiguous since he stated he would support a local school board adding creationism to its curriculum during a debate before the Republican primary.

"Whether it should be taught in school or not is not my decision," he said recently. "I'm not running for school board and I'm not running for pope, and I'm not running for commissioner of education. I'm running for governor. My feeling is creationism is something that should be taught in philosophy, evolution and science. Now whether it should be taught in school or not, it's not mine to decide."

He added, "Knowledge is power. The more they know, the better decisions they make in life."

LePage noted that creationism wasn't high on his agenda.

Scott Moody, 51, independent

Moody opposes teaching creationism in public schools. He was critical of LePage for expressing support for it.

"It concerns me about a person that would propose that," Moody said. "The governor isn't the guy who shoots from the hip. I kind of challenge the person, Mayor LePage, for saying that because, OK, you want to have creationism? OK, which bible, which religion?"

Moody added, "It's a shallow idea that to me exposes a little shoot-from-the-hip-type personality that doesn't always provide the best leadership."

Kevin Scott, 42, independent

Scott, a self-described Christian, said creationism taught at the university level might be appropriate, but not in public schools.

"The grade schools don't teach Hinduism and all the other religions, so why should a particular religion be taught?" Scott said.

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 's picture

It is telling that you get

It is telling that you get info from YOUtube. The problem is that I AM paying on my dime, and I am paying YOUR dime too. I want my dime back. I don't think it's fair that I have to pay for your religion.

 's picture

When we are facing some

When we are facing some extraordinary difficulties and Financial Problems at the State level this seems to be a silly question to ask. But let me add to the debate.
So called Creationism, which has been co-opted or "assigned" to christianity, is just an excercise of mathematical probabilities that questions and proves the unlikelyhood that the religion (haha) of evolution (macro anyway) is proven science. To accept evolution as proven fact, places it in the category of a religion. Oh Oooh. You had better not be teaching evolution as fact. DNA is DNA within a certain framework it is useful, to extend it to or to reach back into the past with these theories, is probably a fun excercise, but is an example of magical thinking. Some very smart scientists, who are not christian, are the very people positing these arguments of so called creationism. And they are just critically challenging evolutionary biologosts. It's a really good debate. And very productive. It seems to me that "Creationism" might have a big part in filling in the extraordinary gaps to evolutionary theory. Kinda dumb gubanatorial (sp) question though.
As a christian taxpayer, I find that the public school system, including our universities have NO problem offending me, so why should I pay taxes to that system? But if I want the kids to go to a school that reflects my beliefs, then I pay for private school and I pay for the public school system too. That is not fair.

 's picture

Religion not Science

Good post hurumble. If our school budgets weren't being pared down to readin' and writin' we could offer philosophy and world religion courses where the various 'Creation' beliefs could be presented. Let science classes stick to science. Fatandhappy, you can send your kids to your religion's schools to learn about your religious beliefs. Why should taxpayer's subsidize courses on your religious beliefs and not others? What are we to have... 'Christian' science, 'Hindu' science, 'Muslim' science, etc.? Preachers (and their preaching) belong in a church, not in a public school.

 's picture

Creationism belongs in schools, just not in science class

The belief that a god created the world is one of the most popular philosophical beliefs in the world related to how it began. Students should have the opportunity to discuss it. However, there is nothing about creationism that suggest it would be appropriate for science class. Unfortunately, philosophy or world religions classes aren't more widely offered in our high schools. I'm sure almost any of the schools that do offer a world religions or philosophy class do take a look at creationism. It's only unfortunate that not many schools do offer this.

RONALD RIML's picture

If our Officials are elected on Religious beliefs -

Then we citizens should be entitled to vote on the Religious Leaders responsible for the beliefs upon which our government officials are held to task on.

I'de be more than glad to vote on the various Bishops, Rabbis, Caliphs, Head-Snake Handlers, Etc.....

RONALD RIML's picture

Nancy1's 'Creationism" of a Red Herring.....

Way to stoop, Nancy.....

RONALD RIML's picture

So you don't believe in monitoring results.

The purpose of collecting SSN's was to use them to track future employment of students as a means to assess how their education was used later in life for students. Names, etc change; SSN's do not. Did the taxpayers get their money worth?

Obviously you don't believe these findings are necessary - simply shovel money in and to hell with it. So now we know where you stand, Nancy.

Privacy CAN be maintained. It's done all the time. Perhaps it's your world that's incompetent.


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