A Kansas-based group that “promotes the religious rights of parents, children, and taxpayers” is challenging the state’s science standards because they include the teaching of evolution, which the group claims is a religion and therefore should be excluded from science class.
As the AP reports, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) claims that public schools “promote a ‘non-theistic religious worldview’ by allowing only ‘materialistic’ or ‘atheistic’ explanations to scientific questions.” The group argues that by teaching evolution “the state would be ‘indoctrinating’ impressionable students in violation of the First Amendment.”
COPE’s challenge [PDF] states that the teaching of evolution “amounts to an excessive government entanglement with religion” and violates the rights of Christian parents.
Indeed, COPE’s stated mission is to create “religious[ly] neutral” schools that do not promote “pantheistic and materialistic religions, including Atheism and Religious (‘Secular’) Humanism” - a category under which it includes “Darwinian evolution.”
The National Center for Science Education calls COPE’s lawsuit “silly” and “frivolous,” and the Baptist Joint Committee says COPE’s argument “makes no sense” and that the group is effectively saying schools should be “teaching no science at all.”
Just like the bogus “teach the controversy” or “teach both sides” refrains, COPE’s lawsuit is part of a long line of Creationist challenges to the teaching of evolution.
Religious Right heavyweight John Eidsmoe, a mentor to conservative politicians like Michele Bachmann, wrote in his 1984 book God & Caesar that conservative Christian activists should base their attacks on evolution on the premise that evolution is actually just as much a religious idea as Creationism, and therefore the two should be treated the same way.
Eidsmoe writes that the government “promote[s] humanism” through its “support for evolution.” He decries “secular humanism” as “the religion of the American public schools,” a result of successful push by humanists “to use the public schools to promote a religion of secular humanism.”
As Eidsmoe understands it, science classes that “contain evolutionary thought” are no different from schools that exclusively “promote Christianity or creationism.”
“Why should government ally itself with the faith of humanism?” Eidsmoe writes. “[J]ust as the government cannot actively promote Christianity, so also the government should not actively promote secular humanism.”
He claims that the “religion” of humanism “violates the fundamental beliefs of orthodox Christians,” and urges Christians to “demand that public schools which teach evolution teach creation also” or “ask that the humanistic materials be removed.”
COPE is clearly following the blueprint laid out by Eidsmoe, with its claim [PDF] that it is defending Christians’ “rights to not be indoctrinated by Kansas public schools to accept the materialistic/atheistic religious Worldview which the [Framework and Standards] seek to establish.”