The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the creation bill which was
passed in Arkansas. The case is slated to go to court on December 7, 1981.
Wendell Bird, the leading author of the Arkansas law, along with other leading
creationists (including Henry Morris, Duane Gish, and Harold Coffin) originally
sought to participate in the state's defense. However, Arkansas Attorney General
Steve Clark has told the creationists that he doesn't want their help. The
creationists have established a "Creation Science Legal Defense Fund" and were
planning a big showdown; they wanted the merits of creationism to be presented
before the judge who will try the case. Judge Overton ruled against their motion
to intervene, while at the same time turning down a request from the Unitarians
to file a friend-of-the-court brief which defends evolution and states the
Unitarian opinion of the law. These decisions might mean that the primary
emphasis of the case will be on evolution and constitutional law rather than on
Meanwhile, the ACLU is gathering together a group of expert scientists and
educators to aid in the suit. They are prepared for whatever sort of case this
may turn out to be.
On July 21, 1981, a creation bill similar to that in Arkansas was signed into
law in Louisiana. The wording of the two is almost identical, as both are from
the same draft pushed by Paul Ellwanger's Citizens for Fairness in Education.
The Louisiana law, however, leaves out the specific definitions of
creation-science and evolution-science. (This is actually more sensible, because
science is not a dogma that can have its conclusions engraved into the immutable
bronze of a statute.) The Louisiana law also adds a provision stating that the
governor may designate seven creation scientists "who shall provide resource
services in the development of curriculum guides." Unlike the Arkansas law, this
law affects teacher-training institutions as well as secondary schools.
In Governor Treen's public statement defending his signing of the bill, he
indicated that the law simply permits the two theories to be covered; it does
not mandate anything. However, recognizing that the wording in this part of the
law is ambiguous and may end up meaning that creationism will be required
whenever evolution is taught, Treen opined that this would not damage science
education. "Academic freedom can scarcely be harmed by inclusion; it can be
harmed by exclusion," he said. But if this is literally true, why does the bill
exclude all other
pseudoscientific theories from consideration? And, since Louisiana never
required the teaching of evolution in the first place, what is the need for a
law that "permits" the teaching of creationism?
Don McGehee, the state education official, has determined that the new law will
cost Louisiana $7 million. This will go to pay for creationist library and
textbooks as well as teacher training.
The ACLU is committed to bringing a lawsuit challenging this bill also, but the
timing is a bit uncertain. The Arkansas bill was challenged two months after it
was signed into law, and it will probably take as long to make the legal moves
regarding the Louisiana case.
Congressmen from Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other states have
recently been approached about introducing a federal creationist bill in
Washington. The bill is another model piece of legislation, this time being
pushed by Citizens Against Federal Establishment of Evolutionary Dogma. Who
heads this group? You guessed it: Paul Ellwanger. The federal bill is called "An
Act to Protect Academic Freedom and to Prevent Federal Censorship in Scientific
Inquiry Funded with Federal Tax Monies." It's main thrust is to ensure that,
whenever federal funds are provided for evolution research, curriculum
development, museum exhibits, or exhibits and lectures connected with the
National Park Service, equal funds must be applied to creationism in these same
areas. This would probably mean, for example, that tour guides in our national
parks would have to include a creationist interpretation of each natural wonder
that they explain. The repercussions would be enormous. National Science
Foundation General Counsel Charles H. Hertz has said that such a law "could
severely distort the allocation of federal monies, introduce factors extraneous
to scientific research, and itself constitute a form of subtle federal
censorship of academic research." Pressure is nonetheless building in Congress
at this time and Ellwanger has declared that such a bill will appear very soon.
Paul Ellwanger has had his model state bill introduced so far in twenty-one
legislatures and is now in the process of completing a second revision of it. He
expects that after January it will appear in about nineteen states. The original
tactic used by creationists to push the model bill was to first stir up a public
outcry and then, with all that hoopla and support, try to force the bill through
However, in every case where that tactic was tried, concerned
leaders, educators, parents, and others against creationism became alarmed. They
were often mobilized by Committees of Correspondence. The result was that they
were able to use the time to organize an effective opposition. The creationists
were stunned to see how large that opposition was. In response to their repeated
failures, the creationists adopted a new tactic: "springing" bills. They began
to keep quiet about proposed legislation until the last few days of the
legislative session and then tried to rush it through before anyone heard about
it. This tactic worked in Arkansas and Louisiana. We expect to see it in use
again in 1982.
Is there an effective antidote to this new tactic? Yes, but it requires
foresight. It had been wise in the past to "let sleeping dogs lie" and not raise
the creation controversy in a state until the creationists did. But now, those
opposed to such legislation must raise the issue early by writing to their state
legislators and local school boards to inform them of the facts well in advance
of any possible vote. Legislators should know there is an organized opposition
to creationism before it becomes an issue. Copies of articles in
Creation/Evolution can be sent to key people who need to be informed. Individual
letters need to be written. Letters to the editor should appear in newspapers.
There is no way of telling which states will be next. The time to act is now.
Committees of Correspondence to fight creationist legislation have been
established in thirty-five states. If you desire to take part in the effort,
write to Stanley Weinberg, Committees of Correspondence, in care of this
journal. The Committees of Correspondence network will be involved in three
presentations at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., January 38.
The Creation-Science Research Center is at it again. Nell Segraves of the Center
is fighting to get Isaac Asimov's book, In the Beginning, taken off public
school library shelves in San Diego City Schools. Segraves argues that the book
is "anti-God and anti-Scripture and makes the Bible out as mythology." She adds
that creationist books are not in these school libraries. "We have a law in this
state that allows the Bible to be used as a resource book, but it does not allow
commentary on the Bible," Segraves declared. But if this is true, she should be
fighting against such a law, not for censorship. If creationist books are not
included in public school libraries, she should fight to get them innot get
Asimov out. There is no harm in exposing high schoolers to a variety of
religious viewpoints. If books on astrology appear in San Diego City School
libraries (and they do), then books on almost any harmless opinion should appear
with them. It seems Segraves does not agree with Louisiana's Governor Treen in
his view that "exclusion" alone is harmful. So long as religious materials are
not made part of the science curriculum, there should be no bar to their
inclusion in the public schools.
Teaching about religion, as opposed to preaching, is quite legal.
Dr. William E. Ellis, an Eastern Kentucky University history professor, has
polled Kentucky's high school biology teachers and found that they are
overwhelmingly in opposition to being forced to teach scientific creationism. Of 794 questionnaires sent out, 44 percent were returned. Of those, 76 percent
showed opposition to any state law forcing "equal time" for creationism.
Slightly over half of the responding teachers said that they moderately
emphasize evolution in their classes, and one-third said that they give it
little emphasis. A majority said that, while they frequently encourage students
to offer opposing views to evolution, the students do so only "very rarely" or
"occasionally." Nearly 80 percent said that they have never had any negative
reactions from parents about teaching evolution, and over 90 percent said that
they never had complaints from either school administrators, the superintendent,
or the school board. A majority supported the view that they alone should make
any decision on which theories will be emphasized in their classrooms. It
appears that this survey is the first of its kind that has covered the entire
Professor John N. Moore, a founder of the Creation Research Society, has
accepted early retirement from Michigan State University. For more than a decade
Moore has taught "two model" science in his classes. He also coauthored the
controversial text, Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity.
An error was made in Creation/Evolution V. It was stated that the petition filed
in Grants Pass, Oregon, was for a statewide referendum on teaching creationism.
It was actually for only a local referendum. The result, however, was the same
as for the earlier and similar petition drive in the Medford area: it failed.
Petitioners canvassed door-to-door in Grants Pass in an attempt to gather the
1,994 signatures needed in order to put an "equal time" measure on the ballot
but were only able to get about 1,000. Their desire was to have scientific
creationism taught in the district's schools on an equal basis with evolution.
Petitioner Phil Hyatt said, "We got very poor response and we came considerably
short, so we are going to discontinue the efforts. It seems like the people are
not interested in getting involved in it." This result surprised the creationists, who had felt sure they
would have no difficulty.
Evangelist Jerry Falwell moderated a debate between creationist Duane Gish of
ICR and Dr. Russell Doolittle of the University of California at San Diego, to
be aired during prime time on a nationwide television hookup. The contract gives
Doolittle some control over the tape and limits Falwell's right to use it as a
medium for creationist publicity. The taping took place on October 15, 1981, at
Falwell's Lynchburg, Virginia, church and will be broadcast first over the
Christian Broadcasting Network before the end of this year. Doolittle previously
debated Gish at Iowa State University with considerable success; however, the
results of the latest confrontation were not so positive.