A Kansas-based creationist group has lost a legal challenge to science education standards in public schools. Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) filed suit against the Kansas Board of Education in 2013 to block implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards because, COPE asserted, they encouraged schools to promote atheism to children.The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected this argument on Monday. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the court ruled that COPE did not have standing to challenge the standards. The group has not yet indicated if it will appeal that ruling.
It’s a second blow for COPE. In 2014, a district court judge tossed its original complaint, finding that their claims had no merit – with good reason.
COPE’s claims are nothing if not novel. In its original suit, the group complained that the standards, which have been adopted by 26 states, encourage teachers to take children “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate religious questions like what is the cause and nature of life and the universe – ‘where do we come from?’”Continued COPE, “The purpose of the indoctrination is to establish the religious Worldview, not to deliver to an age appropriate audience an objective and religiously neutral origins science education that seeks to inform.”COPE also seems to believe that because the standards teach students that evolution is fact – something, by the way, that mainstream scientists do not doubt – Kansas schoolchildren will be subtly manipulated into rejecting their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.It’s a nonsensical argument, which is why courts have unanimously rejected it. But the group’s been nothing if not persistent, and despite its legal losses, it seems unlikely to surrender its crusade.
Sound science education isn’t the only cause in COPE’s sights.The group also objects to what it characterizes as “progressive” content in Common Core, national social studies standards and Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. On its website, COPE claims that schools once taught American exceptionalism and Judeo-Christian religion, only to now turn to “darker subjects” like “victimization, oppression, racism, sexism, bigotry, feminism, secularism, separation of church and state, multiculturalism, activist environmentalism, social justice, and wealth redistribution.”COPE recommends instead that schools adopt A Patriot’s History of the United States, a conservative take on American history that informs students the Democratic party is on a “crusade” to “eliminate guns” and, as Zack Kopplin wrote in Slate in 2014, states that Secretary of State John Kerry’s Purple Hearts and Bronze Star, which he earned during the Vietnam War, are “suspect at best.”
COPE, it seems, isn’t interested in promoting facts; it’s interested in forcing public schools to conduct far-right religious and political indoctrination. The group states on its website that it believes parents have the right to direct the religious education of their children. And that is true. Parents do have that right.
But COPE (perhaps deliberately) fails to understand that parents do not have the right to ask state employees to shield their children from facts. Parents who oppose the teaching of evolution have options: They can send their children to private, religious schools, they can homeschool or they can offer supplemental instruction at home. But they aren’t entitled to a sectarian education on the public dime or to insist on policies that dumb-down every other child’s education.
COPE isn’t the only group set on attacking curriculum standards. It’s simply one prong of a national campaign to erode the secular character of public schools. Now, it’s the latest to fail.