May 05, 2006

A Missouri public school district’s plan to sponsor a high school assembly by a creationist lecturer violates the U.S. Constitution and must be dropped, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a letter today to Superintendent Randy Davis and other school officials, Americans United demanded that the Potosi R-III School District cancel a high school assembly and middle school classroom visits this Monday by Mike Riddle of Answers in Genesis (AIG). AIG is a Kentucky-based fundamentalist Christian ministry that attacks evolution and argues for a literal reading of the biblical Book of Genesis.

“It is wrong for public schools to promote religion as science,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The Constitution does not permit it, and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against it.

“Parents, not school officials, should make decisions about their children’s religious upbringing,” he continued. “This school district has stepped over the line.”

According to the AIG Web site, Riddle is in Missouri to make presentations on Sunday at Potosi Community Church and at Potosi Southern Baptist Church.

According to the school district’s Web site, AIG is scheduled to make a presentation of two hours and 45 minutes at the Potosi High School on Monday morning. Sources say Riddle plans to visit classrooms at the local middle school later that day.

In the letter to school officials, Americans United Assistant Legal Director Richard Katskee asserted, “We write to inform you that the scheduled assembly and classroom presentations cannot lawfully be presented in the public schools and that allowing them to occur would be a substantial constitutional violation…. Simply put, public schools may not lawfully seek to debunk evolution for religious ends, nor may they teach religious views of the origins of life. The May 8 assembly and classroom presentations by Answers in Genesis will do both.”

Americans United and the Pennsylvania ACLU brought the recent Dover “intelligent-design” creationism lawsuit in Dover, Pa., that resulted in a sweeping defeat for a local school district that introduced religious material into the science curriculum. In December 2005, a federal district court ruled that the Constitution bars promotion of religion in public schools.

The Dover School District is paying $1 million in court costs and attorneys’ fees as a result of losing the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.