Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to the West Virginia Legislature adjourning without passing Senate Bill 619, a bill that would have authorized public school teachers to teach intelligent design creationism:
“We at Americans United are thankful that West Virginia public school students won’t be forced to sit through lessons on intelligent design creationism – an inherently religious doctrine that has no place in public schools. Public schools are not Sunday schools; their purpose is to teach students sound science, not preach religious beliefs.
“While the intelligent design bill failed this session, it’s alarming that the bill got as much traction as it did. The bill’s supporters blatantly ignored the Constitution’s promise to separate church and state – the protector of religious freedom – and would have flouted decades of court precedent that bars the teaching of religious doctrine in public schools, including an Americans United case that successfully proved intelligent design was simply creationism rebranded.
“If legislators insist on resurrecting this bill, Americans United is ready to defend the Constitution and protect public education and the religious freedom of West Virginia families. Using our public schools to impose religious doctrines like intelligent design on a captive audience of schoolchildren is part of the Christian Nationalist agenda to force all of us to live by their narrow beliefs. We need a national recommitment to the separation of church and state. Our public schools and our democracy depend on it.”
AU Court Case Ended Public School’s Attempt To Teach Intelligent Design
In a 2005 decision, a federal district court so resoundingly struck down a Pennsylvania school district’s attempts to insert intelligent design creationism in public school science classes that there have been no successful attempts to teach it in public schools since. In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, brought by Americans United and the ACLU, now retired U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that “ID is not science,” that “ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents,” and that “it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.” Jones’ decision followed a string of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts that also barred the teaching of creationism in public schools.
Americans United sent a letter to West Virginia legislators in late February explaining this legal history and urging them to vote against SB 619.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Associate Vice President of Communications