‘Creationism’ course to end


first_img El Tejon Superintendent John Wight had defended the class, saying the subject was proper for a philosophy class meant to introduce students to both viewpoints. The course relied almost exclusively on videos that presented religious theories as scientific ones, including titles such as “Chemicals to Living Cells: Fantasy or Science?” and “Astronomy and the Bible,” according to the suit. Even the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design research, had advised the school to settle the case. “It was misconceived,” said John West, a senior fellow at the institute. “It was almost all about Biblical creationism, not intelligent design, and it also seemed lopsided.” Demonstrators rallied outside a board meeting Friday in opposition of the class. The weekly newspaper, the Mountain Enterprise, devoted five pages to letters from readers in one issue. Teacher Sharon Lemburg, the wife of an Assembly of God minister, defended the course she designed in a letter to the editor. “I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach,” she wrote. The original class syllabus said it would examine “evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin’s philosophy is not rock solid.” Board members were divided when they learned of the course in December and discovered that the only two supporters of evolution listed as guest lecturers would not be speaking. One of them, Kenneth Hurst, a parent opposed to the class, became the lead plaintiff in the suit to end it. The other, Nobel prize winner Francis Crick, died in 2004. After the course plan was altered to meet demands of the board, members voted 3-2 in a special Jan. 1 session that approved the class as part of the entire winter session curriculum. The board didn’t have the option of eliminating the class from other electives and remedial classes offered in the four-week span. The class started Jan. 3 with 15 students. Under the deal, it must end by Jan. 27. While the settlement will not set a legal precedent, such as the 140-page federal judge’s decision stemming from the Pennsylvania suit, it might make other districts think twice about offering similar classes. “It might give them pause to think they might be sued and hauled into court,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! FRESNO – A Kern County school district agreed to stop teaching a religion-based alternative to evolution as part of a court settlement filed Tuesday. El Tejon Unified School District agreed in the settlement to halt the course at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec next week and said it would never again offer a “course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design.” Parents sued the district last week for violating the constitutional separation of church and state by offering “Philosophy of Design,” a course taught by a minister’s wife that advanced the theory that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence. “This sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they cannot promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution whether they do so in a science class or a humanities class,” said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed the suit on behalf of 11 parents. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita A federal judge in Fresno, who had been scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on whether to halt the class midway through the monthlong winter term, must approve the settlement. All five of the cash-strapped district’s board of trustees voted to settle the potentially expensive suit, said Pete Carton, the district’s attorney. “If you have five board members, you’ll have 10 opinions, but it could be that economics was a common denominator,” Carton said. The high school in the Tehachapi Mountains about 75 miles north of Los Angeles draws 500 students from a dozen small communities. Americans United for Separation of Church and State had successfully blocked Dover, Pa., schools last month from teaching intelligent design in science courses. last_img

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