June 2004 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Voters in Darby, Mont., have overwhelmingly rejected school board candidates who supported a policy that would allow teachers to offer religiously grounded criticism of evolution in science classes.

In February, the Darby School Board gave initial approval to a measure called the "objective origins policy," which a local minister had asked the board to adopt. Public hearings on the proposal were held, but a final decision was postponed until after the May 4 election.

Several Darby residents and Americans United warned that if the "objective origins policy" were adopted, a lawsuit based on a constitutional challenge could be forthcoming. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Louisiana "balanced treatment" law that called for public school science courses to include instruction on creationism whenever evolution was discussed.

The origins policy, according to newspaper accounts, was the central issue of the Darby school board elections. Gina Schallenberger, an incumbent who supported the policy, and Robert Houston, who made his support for the policy the center of his campaign, lost by big margins. Successful candidates Bob Wetsteon and Erik Abrahamsen both campaigned on blocking the policy.

"I am delighted, and it will be really nice to see a spirit of team playing return to the Darby school board," Rob Miner, one of the parents who opposed the policy told the Missoulian. "We worked hard to stop this thing short of a lawsuit."