Brunswick Stew: Creationism Crusade Bubbles Up At N.C. School Board

Creationism is religion, not science, and courts have ruled repeatedly that it has no place in public school science classes.

Members of the Brunswick County, N.C., School Board seem to be having problems telling the difference between science and theology.

All four members of the board are looking for a way to bring creationism into the classroom, reported the Wilmington Star-News. The issue arose after a parent, Joel Fanti, criticized the schools for teaching evolution.

"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," opined board member Jimmy Hobbs. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists."

Hobbs and other board members instructed Superintendent Katie McGee to research the issue and find out if creationism can be taught. Adding fuel to the fire, the board's attorney, Joseph Causey, said it might be possible to add creationism to the curriculum as long as it doesn't replace evolution.

I can save McGee's staff some time: The answer is no. Also, fire your attorney because he doesn't know what he's talking about. Creationism is religion, not science, and courts have ruled repeatedly that it has no place in public school science classes. (The type of "balanced treatment" Causey advocates was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987.)

Americans United co-litigated the legal case against "intelligent design" creationism in Dover, Pa., in 2004. I'd like to tell the Brunswick County School Board, "Don't go there." The Dover board ended up paying more than $1 million in legal fees after it lost the case.

Some other points to consider: First of all, it's a shame Hobbs doesn't know about the numerous religious leaders who have endorsed the teaching of evolution, including the late Pope John Paul II, current Pope Benedict XVI and more Protestant and Jewish clergy that you can count. Most religious leaders long ago made their peace with evolution.

Second, school boards have an obligation to make certain young people are properly educated. In North Carolina, the state science standards call for the teaching of evolution. This isn't just rhetoric. Like a lot of states, North Carolina has standardized tests students must take. Evolution appears on the science test, but creationism does not.

"If you're teaching something not in the standards, you're not teaching what students need to be assessed on," said Edd Dunlap, science section chief for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

The Brunswick board is wasting time chasing this shadow. Aside from the constitutional issues, teaching creationism is a non-starter because it would take time away from instruction students really need. It would be irresponsible for the board to pursue a course of action that would make it less likely that the students in their charge can pass a standardized test, which in turn jeopardizes their ability to go to college. One would think the parents would be up in arms about that.

The Star-News articles contain an interesting tidbit: The Brunswick Board created a Bible-as-literature course for high school students a few years ago. This year, the elective class is not being taught because no one signed up for it.

Maybe the students in Brunswick County are trying to tell the board something: They want more objective teaching about academic subjects and less religion. Perhaps it's time for the board to get back to basics and drop the religious crusade.

Just a thought.