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FFRF outraged at creationism in Ohio public school

1OHDELAThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is outraged that creationist myth is being taught at an online Ohio public charter school based out of Akron.

A concerned parent of an Ohio Distance & Electronic Learning Academy student contacted FFRF to report the school’s biology classes include a unit on “biogenesis” that teaches the biblical view of creation. The class readings for this unit reportedly include young earth creationist Walter Brown’s book “In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood,” a book promoted exclusively by Brown’s own religious ministry, the Center for Scientific Creation.

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 reminds the Academy.

“Courts have routinely found that such teachings are religious, despite many new and imaginative labels given to the alternatives,” FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes to Ohio Distance & Electronic Learning Academy Superintendent David Bowlin. “The Supreme Court has struck down the teaching of 'scientific creationism' in public schools. And federal courts consistently reject other efforts to undermine evolution or to supplement its teaching with religious ideology in the public schools.”

Every attempt to smuggle religion into science classrooms by means of “alternative theories” has failed, FFRF asserts. Creationism, intelligent design and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life (like biogenesis) subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge.

Evolution, like gravity, is a scientific fact. Teaching that there is a scientific controversy about the validity of evolution or the Big Bang is akin to teaching astrology with astronomy or alchemy beside chemistry.

And it is wildly inappropriate for a set of religious beliefs to be pushed on a captive audience of public school students. Such entanglement between Christianity and the school’s science curriculum alienates those students who practice other religious faiths and those who are nonreligious. The Ohio Distance & Electronic Learning Academy 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. Sectarian instruction also violates Ohio’s Education Code, which requires all school programs to be nonsectarian.

“Science and religion do not go well together,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Public schools should not permit nonscientific, religiously inspired nonsense to be foisted upon their students.”

FFRF urges the Ohio Distance & Electronic Learning Academy to conduct an immediate investigation and to take appropriate corrective action regarding this unconstitutional conduct. The school must inform instructors that incorporating religious theories into their lessons and/or using materials that promote such religious views is plainly unconstitutional in a public school.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 nonreligious members and chapters across the country, including 700-plus and the Northern Ohio Freethought Society in Ohio. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

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