School officials in a suburb north of Cincinnati are being warned not to add creationism to their curriculum if they want to avoid a costly legal challenge.
The ACLU of Ohio recently sent a letter to the Springboro Community City School District stating that the teaching of creationism in public schools is both unconstitutional and unscientific. During the past several decades, the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have consistently found that teaching creationism, intelligent design, or other religious-based ideologies unfairly promote one belief system over others, the letter added.
Some Springboro school board members have said they're interested in exploring ways to integrate creationism into the school’s curriculum. Supporters of the plan say it's permissible because it wouldn't be a required course, merely a supplemental course that could be taken as an elective.
That still doesn't pass legal muster, the ACLU said.
“The ACLU has a long history of defending everyone’s right to practice the religion of their choice, or none at all,” said James Hardiman, the ACLU of Ohio's legal director, in a prepared statement. “However, if public schools begin to teach a religious ideology as scientific fact, it sends a message that the school supports that religion over others. Preferential treatment makes all people less free to hold their own beliefs.”
If the school district doesn't prevail in the court challenge, the ACLU added, it would be responsible for paying all legal costs in the case.
“School officials could find much better uses for its resources than passing an unconstitutional policy that flies in the face of their mission to educate young people and perpetuates the myth that religion and science cannot coexist,” Hardiman said. “Evolutionary theory and religion need not be opposed to one another.”
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Edwards v. Aguillard case that teaching creationism in public schools violated the U.S. Constitution. In December 2005, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design, a new ideology promoted as a scientific alternative to evolution, was no different than creationism.
Additionally, scientists have nearly universally dismissed these theories as unverifiable, the ACLU noted.
Springboro is located 40 miles north of Cincinnati, and sits in portions of Warren and Montgomery counties.