Lawsuit over NGSS dismissed

A federal court dismissed a creationist lawsuit seeking to prevent Kansas from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards on the grounds that doing so would "establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview." In a December 2, 2014, order (PDF) in COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al., Judge Daniel D. Crabtree of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the case.

The complaint contended (PDF) that the NGSS "seek to cause students to embrace a non-theistic Worldview ... by leading very young children to ask ultimate questions about the cause and nature of life and the universe ... and then using a variety of deceptive devices and methods that will lead them to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic explanations." Both the Big Bang and evolution were emphasized as problematic.

Judge Crabtree's decision did not address the content of the complaint, instead finding that the Kansas state board of education and the Kansas state department of education enjoyed Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity against the suit and that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any of their claims, failing to establish any of the three relevant requirements for standing: injury, causation, and addressability.

As NCSE previously reported, the lead plaintiff, COPE, Citizens for Objective Public Education, is a new creationist organization, founded in 2012, but its leaders and attorneys include people familiar from previous attacks on evolution education across the country, such as John H. Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network. The Kansas board of education voted to adopt the NGSS in June 2013, and the lawsuit in effect attempted to undo the decision.

NCSE's Josh Rosenau, who dismissed the lawsuit as "silly" to the Associated Press (September 26, 2013) when it was filed, expressed satisfaction at the outcome. He predicted that even if the plaintiffs had established standing, they would have lost the case: "They were trying to say that anything not promoting their religion is promoting some other religion, and that argument has been repeatedly rejected by the courts."

The NGSS have been adopted in twelve states — California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — plus the District of Columbia. The treatment of evolution and climate science in the standards occasionally provokes controversy (especially in Wyoming, where the legislature derailed their adoption over climate science), but COPE v. Kansas is the only lawsuit to have resulted.

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