A cartoon image from the University of California-Berkeley website that promotes faith in evolution highlights the agreement between some religious groups and its own perspective
Whether a public university can use taxpayer funds from the federal government for a website that overtly endorses the beliefs of some religious groups regarding evolution and creation – but not others – is the focus of a case that’s being prepared for submission to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This is a classic example of what the Founding Fathers did not want,” Brad Dacus, of the Pacific Justice Institute, told WND.
His organization is working on the case that revolves around a University of California-Berkeley website that advocates for a single perspective in the arguments over evolution – and highlights a list of religious groups whose beliefs agree with that perspective.
The site, funded by a federal grant and aimed at influencing teachers to promote evolution, excludes and ridicules perspectives – and religious groups that hold those perspectives – that fail to align with its stated beliefs.
“Some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings,” states the website.
“This [website] injures religious freedom in this country,” Dacus said. “The government is playing a role that is overtly hostile to some religious groups and denominations while favoring and giving greater recognition towards others.”
He continued, “This case involves the ability of the state to use taxpayer money to overtly endorse and encourage support of one set of religious denominations over others.”
The case is being brought to the U.S. Supreme Court after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the plaintiff, a mother whose children could be subjected to website indoctrination, didn’t have standing to complain about the promotions of the American Jewish Committee, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Humanist Association of Canada, the Lexington Alliance of Religious Leaders, the Lutheran World Federation and others.
“It’s our conviction that the government has no place decreeing that some religious views are more correct than others,” Dacus told WND. “The website points to some denominations while ignoring other groups that believe in a literal creation.”
According to Pacific Justice Institute, the website is funded by a federal grant and targets public school teachers.
“The website urges teachers to challenge students’ religious beliefs that evolution contradicts their faith. Moreover, the site points teachers to statements from religious groups and denominations that support evolution, while ignoring religious groups that believe in a literal creation,” PJI said.
PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider argued the case at the appeals level, and said, “It’s troubling when the courts decree that some government actions – in this case, taxpayer dollars funding one side of a theological debate about the origins of life – are immune from legal challenge. This decision raises the question to what extent government can get away with constitutional violations via the Internet.”
“We are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will recognize the implications of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and act to reverse it,” Dacus said.
“Creationism is not scientific; it is a purely religious view held by some religious sects and persons and strongly opposed by other religious sects and persons,” said a highlighted statement from one religious group. “Evolution is the only presently known strictly scientific and nonreligious explanation for the existence and diversity of living organisms. It is therefore the only view that should be expounded in public school courses on science, which are distinct from those on religion.”
Said another, this one from a Unitarian Universalist organiziaton, “Be it resolved … [to] uphold religious neutrality in public education, oppose all government mandated or sponsored prayers, devotional observances, and religious indoctrination in public schools; and oppose efforts to compromise the integrity of public school teaching by the introduction of sectarian religious doctrines, such as ‘scientific creationism,’ …”
“Antievolutionists have tried to confuse science and religion, leading to … misconceptions in the minds of some members of the public,” the Berkeley website said. “A debate pitting a scientific concept against a religious belief has no place in a science class and misleadingly suggests that a ‘choice’ between the two must be made.”
The website indoctrination continues: “Evolution is science. The study of evolution relies on evidence and inference from the natural world. Thus it is not a religion.
“Scientists do not debate whether evolution took place (evidence supporting the theory of evolution is abundant); however, details of how evolution took place are hotly debated…”
The site, launched with more than $500,000 in federal taxpayer money, also denies that existence of any “flaws” in the theory of evolution.
“Scientists have examined the supposed ‘flaws’ that creationists claim exist in evolutionary theory and have found no support for these claims. These ‘flaws’ are based on misunderstandings of evolutionary theory or misrepresentations of evidence. Scientists continue to refine the theory of evolution, but that doesn’t mean it is ‘flawed,’” the site alleges.
WND reported earlier on the dispute over the University of California-Berkeley website that uses the views of certain religious denominations to promote evolution.
The protest focuses on the website section that arms teachers to counter student “misconceptions” about evolution. The site warns that questions aimed at exposing weaknesses in evolutionary theory “may be designed to disrupt the learning process” and are “a bit different from legitimate inquiry.”
Roy Caldwell, a UC-Berkeley professor named in the suit, said earlier the website helps teachers answer questions.
“One of those questions is, ‘Aren’t religion and evolution incompatible?’ and we say, ‘no,’ and point to a number of sites by clerics and others who make that point,” he said.