Stop N.Y. teacher from denying evolution, FFRF insists

Darwin Poster

A New York school district needs to ensure that a teacher ceases spewing religious anti-evolution propaganda at a local high school, says the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

A concerned parent whose child attends Holland Patent High School in the Holland Patent Central School District has informed FFRF, a national state/church watchdog, that a biology teacher there recently began a lesson on evolution by undermining the theory. He told students that “evolution only goes so far” and advised students that evolution is “contrary to genetics.” He went on to deride “true evolutionists” and told students to ask them “where has the proof ever been shown and where does it say in science that it can become something else. There’s nothing.” He concluded his rant against evolution by suggesting several alternative explanations, including that “God created us and everything else, whatever god that might be, that you subscribe to.”

The science teacher’s attempt to undercut scientific fact is both unconstitutional and pedagogically deplorable, FFRF emphasizes in a letter to the school district.

“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 Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to district Superintendent Jason P. Evangelist. “Courts have routinely found that such teachings are religious, despite many new and imaginative labels given to the alternatives.”

Any attempt to teach that there is a controversy about evolution is fraught with legal peril, FFRF underlines. Evolution, like gravity, is a scientific fact. Teaching as part of a science class that there is a scientific controversy about the validity of evolution is akin to teaching astrology along with astronomy or alchemy along with chemistry. Representing unconstitutional discarded misconceptions as scientific facts does a great disservice to the scientific literacy of Holland Patent High School students.

The Holland Patent Central 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 is urging the school district to conduct an immediate investigation and take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action regarding the biology teacher’s unconstitutional conduct. He must be directed to refrain from promoting creationism or attacking evolution in his classes.

“The public school biology teacher deserves an ‘F,’” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Religious fantasy can’t be foisted on a captive audience of public school students in the place of scientific fact.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members across the country, including over 1,600 members in New York. 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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