FFRF halts creationism teaching in Kansas City

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has stopped an unscientific middle school science teacher from peddling creationist myth to his students.

A seventh-grade science teacher at Smith-Hale Middle School in Kansas City, Mo., was reportedly teaching creationism. One of his unit tests included questions intended to cast doubt upon evolution and our current understanding of the age of the Earth. An example of a problematic question: There is no evidence that dinosaurs and humans may have co-existed (his accepted answer: false). Another one asked: Catastrophe supports sudden species appearance and a younger Earth (his accepted answer: true). Such questions provide support for creationist beliefs over accepted scientific standards.

Teaching creationism or any of its offshoots, such as intelligent design, in a public school is unlawful, because creationism is not based in fact, FFRF informed the school district.

“Courts have routinely found that such teachings are religious, despite many new and imaginative labels given to the alternatives,” FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line wrote to Hickman Mills C-1 School District Superintendent Yolanda Cargile earlier this month. “The Supreme Court struck down teaching of ‘scientific creationism’ in public schools. Federal courts consistently reject creationism and its ilk in the public schools.” 

Evolution, like gravity, is a scientific fact, FFRF reiterated. No controversy exists in the scientific community regarding the fact of evolution. It is wildly inappropriate for the beliefs of one school of religious thought to be pushed on a captive audience of public school students in science class. Such a practice further alienates those who practice other religious faiths, those who are nonreligious and those who consider science and religion compatible. The school district has a constitutional obligation to ensure that “teachers do not inculcate religion” and are not “injecting religious advocacy into the classroom,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

FFRF asked the school district to immediately investigate and take appropriate corrective action.

School officials addressed FFRF’s request in the proper manner.

“All teachers are expected to teach prescribed curriculum and are not allowed to develop and teach curriculum outside of what has been approved by the school district,” Cargile recently replied. “The test questions you highlighted in your letter are not aligned with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education standards and consequently are not acceptable and will not be utilized in our schools.” 

FFRF appreciates the conclusiveness of the response.

“It’s appalling that a science teacher would misuse his authority to miseducate students,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But it’s also heartening that the school district is displaying such resolve to make certain this won’t happen again.”

Gaylor notes that the prevalence of creationism is holding our nation back competitively on a global scale, and is a national embarrassment.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 30,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in Missouri. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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