July/August 2008 Church & State | Featured

The United Methodist Church (UMC) adopted pro-evolution resolutions at its General Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, in May, reaffirming its stance against government-sponsored religion in public schools and demonstrating yet again that many religiously affiliated groups oppose legislation like Louisiana’s Senate Bill 733.

The first of these resolutions passed by the UMC opposed “the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools.”

“Basically, we would like to keep theological perspectives and scientific perspectives separate,” said Dan Dick, research coordinator for the General Board of Discipleship for the UMC and chair of the task force on the relationship between science and theology. “Theological perspectives don’t really belong in a science class.”

Another resolution encouraged United Methodist leaders to sign on to a national effort called the Clergy Letter project, an open letter campaign for Christian leaders who support “evolution as a science and believe religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth.”

The Rev. James Carter, a Jesuit priest and chancellor of Loyola University in New Orleans, has signed the letter, and expressed his opposition to Louisiana’s recent enactment of the Science Education Act.

“The intent behind the bill is to encourage the teaching of intelligent design,” Carter told Church & State. “Intelligent design is bad science, and to teach it as a science is just confusing students.”

More than 10,000 Christian leaders have signed the letter since 2004. Through the years, other religious leaders and established religious organizations have expressed their opposition to creationism.

This just goes to show that Religious Right groups such as the Discovery Institute and the Louisiana Family Forum represent only one segment of Christians, and large numbers oppose their goal of teaching creationism in public schools.

“There is always going to be a segment of people who will push to make sure their position doesn’t get lost and has an equal footing,” Dick said. “But the church has the responsibility to teach theology and raise these questions. Secular culture has the responsibility to teach science, and we don’t believe creationism and intelligent design qualify as science.”