Written by Don Byrd
In a 1987 case, Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Louisiana law calling for the teaching of “creation science” in the state’s public school science curriculum, and rightly so. “The term ‘creation science,'” the court held, “embodies the religious belief that a supernatural creator was responsible for the creation of humankind. . . . [B]ecause the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment.”
That rule has served us well. A publicly funded science classroom is no place to teach Genesis. Still, every so often, attempts are made to reintroduce creationism into the science curriculum. For a while, advocates called it “intelligent design” and insisted it was akin to a scientific theory that should be taught. Courts similarly ruled that practice impermissible under the First Amendment as merely creationism under a new name.
Now, a new effort may be unfolding in Indiana, where a state senator has proposed a blll that would allow school districts to “require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science.” Senate Bill 373 also would authorize school districts to include a “study of the Bible” in their comparative religions classes. And, as is all the rage these days, it would of course require schools to post “In God We Trust.”
Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) introduced the “Education matters” bill to the State Senate last week. The bill calls for each school corporation or charter school to display both the United States and Indiana state flag and the motto “In God We Trust on posters in each classroom and library. The motto would be predominant in Kruse’s recommended posters, filling a required space of at least 4″ by 15″ on a poster that is at least 11″ by 17”.
The posters could be purchased by the school or donated.
Senator Kruse is no stranger to this kind of controversial curriculum proposal (and the “In God We Trust” provision may be the least controversial element of the bill, from a church-state perspective). In 2013, Kruse offered legislation that would require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. As chair of the Senate Education Committee, Kruse advanced a bill in 2012 that also promoted creationism in the curriculum, stating that he “knew of nothing in state law that prohibits public schools from teaching creationism.”
State law may not be the right place to look, Senator. Try Edward v. Aguillard, the federal Supreme Court ruling that lays out the law prohibiting public schools from teaching creationism pretty well. There a law requiring “creation science” to be taught was ruled unlawful “because it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose.”