Another School Board Poised to Make a Mistake

A report in the Wilmington (NC) Star-News recounts interaction at the meeting of the Brunswick County School Board. It’s the same old religious antievolution.

When asked by a reporter, his fellow board members all said they were in favor of creationism being taught in the classroom.

The topic came up after county resident Joel Fanti told the board he thought it was unfair for evolution to be taught as fact, saying it should be taught as a theory because there’s no tangible proof it’s true.

“I wasn’t here 2 million years ago,” Fanti said. “If evolution is so slow, why don’t we see anything evolving now?”

The board allowed Fanti to speak longer than he was allowed, and at the end of his speech he volunteered to teach creationism and received applause from the audience.

Please, please, Brunswick School Board, if you do go ahead with this plan, do have it taught by Joel Fanti. I really have a desire to see Mr. Fanti cross-examined by Eric Rothschild or Steven Harvey.

Besides the school board members all being in favor in sticking religious antievolution into the classroom, the report classes their legal advisor among the incompetent:

Board attorney Joseph Causey said it might be possible for the board to add creationism to the curriculum if it doesn’t replace the teaching of evolution.

Unless Joseph Causey just stepped out of a time machine bringing him to the present directly from, oh, 1986 or before, no, one cannot simply add creationism to the curriculum. That was the basis of “equal time” and “balanced treatment” labels for religious antievolution arguments, and those had local failures in court from 1975 to 1982, and the 1987 Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard quite clearly said “no” to inclusion of creationism.

Now, we might predict some outcomes in the case of the Brunswick County School Board’s consideration of creationism as a way to waste time in science classes there. Maybe Joseph Causey, Esquire will either buy or otherwise acquire a clue, and inform the board that what they are considering has been considered unconstitutional for over two decades. That could do the trick. If they check their insurance, they’ll likely be informed that attempting to defend creationism in the courtroom will not be covered by any provision of their insurance policy. However, we aren’t talking about these folks doing this in a vacuum. If I got the notice of this report, the Discovery Institute won’t be far behind, and is likely to be on the phone with one or more of the school board members posthaste. This is the sort of opportunity the DI doesn’t often miss having a go at. What we might see in that case is a sudden alteration of the rhetoric being spouted from advocacy of creationism to one of the trendier labels currently being pushed by the DI, either “academic freedom”, “critical analysis”, or “strengths and weaknesses” heading the list. Since it is a school board, I’d say that there may be a slight preference for “strengths and weaknesses”. “Academic freedom” seems to be what the DI offers to state legislatures so as to remove the possibility of a facial challenge to a law. So, come October 21st, we’ll see whether the Brunswick County School Board managed to get wise in the interim, or get taken by deceptionists looking to peddle the same old religious antievolution arguments under a different label.

If they do try the path of deception, I’ll note that judges seem not to take kindly to people trying to skirt rulings. The 1987 Supreme Court decision had already identified the essential untruth behind the urge to re-label what was plainly a religious doctrine, calling it a sham. The 2005 decision in the Kitzmiller v. DASD case cited that specifically, and noted the personal falsehood-telling ways of various principal actors on that school board as they tried to morph from being “creationism” advocates to being ‘intelligent design” advocates. The record caught up with them, and their strategies to deny the past failed.

OK, Brunswick County School Board, what you have said so far has been noted. I’m going to drop the reporter a note to make sure the documentation is preserved, so that there won’t be the unseemly behavior that we were treated to in 2005, when the Dover School Board advocates asserted that the multiple reporters who quoted them saying “creationism” must have invented it all. No, teaching creationism and evolutionary science doesn’t make everything peachy; that’s over twenty years out of date. Science is taught to students because it is important for them to know. Religious doctrines are not taught to public school students, because religious instruction should be a matter for parents to determine, not buttinsky school boards.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

3 thoughts on “Another School Board Poised to Make a Mistake

  • 2008/09/17 at 9:37 am

    Beautiful Post!

  • 2008/09/17 at 11:30 am

    When the taxpayers there are forced to pay the legal costs for their school board’s dumb move, they should also specifically sue the guy who started them on that path. In Dover the costs were in the millions; it might be somewhat cheaper for these folk since they’ll likely be demolished by precedent before going quite so far.

  • 2008/09/17 at 2:10 pm

    Plaintiffs should have a slam-dunk if the school board continues pushing “creationism”. If the school board switches to “intelligent design” or a trendier re-labeling, there might be a trial that could go right on to the Supreme Court on that issue. It could get very expensive for the Brunswick County taxpayers, fighting a war that they are bound to lose.

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