The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which has been in a pitched battle with Ball State University over the school’s decision to ban faculty from talking about intelligent design, is demanding the university treat all beliefs the same and eliminate atheism from an honors course.
“If Ball State is going to ban faculty speech favoring intelligent design by claiming that it would violate the separation of church and state, then it must apply the same ban to faculty speech that promotes atheism or attacks intelligent design in the classroom,” John West, vice president of Discovery Institute, said in a statement.
The institute is asking the Muncie, Ind., school to investigate its honors seminar called “Dangerous Ideas.”
The sole textbook used in the course is an anthology edited by a prominent atheist. The authors assert that “Science Must Destroy Religion.” The book also declares: “There is no God; no Intelligent Designer; no higher purpose to our lives.” It even states that scientists should function as society’s “high priests.” The book contains an afterword by atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion.”
“Unlike BSU, we favor freedom for professors to express their views on controversial issues. But if BSU insists on censoring professors who favor intelligent design, we insist BSU comply with the Constitution and apply its speech ban equally to all professors,” the organization said.
The letter explains: “Since your ban on faculty speech related to intelligent design is based on your claim that individual faculty are not allowed to endorse or take positions in debates over religious ideas, you need to make sure that you apply your new restrictions to all faculty statements regarding all religious topics.
The Discovery Institute believes it is “legally incorrect to claim that individual faculty cannot express their views on religious ideas, especially if the study of those ideas [is] within the areas of their teaching and research.”
“However, if BSU wants to ensure legal compliance, it cannot pick and choose which religious ideas upon which BSU professors are allowed to express their views,” the institute said.
“Therefore, we ask that you issue an immediate directive to all BSU faculty instructing them that they must take care never to express their own opinion in class on a topic relating to a religious idea. Since you have already singled out one idea that you think is religious (intelligent design), we further demand that the new directive provide a list of all of the topics regarded as religious by the administration and upon which BSU faculty can no longer offer their personal views.”
WND previously reported on the conflict over the university ordering instructors not to discuss in science classes the evidence for intelligent design
The Discovery Institute called it a “blatant attack on academic freedom and the unfettered consideration of scientific viewpoints.”
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which wants to eradicate references to faith in the public sphere and on university campuses, demanded an investigation “into whether Ball State physicist Dr. Eric Hedin had informed his students about the theory of ID,” the Institute said.
The “gag order” came from BSU President Jo Ann Gora, who declared ID is a “religious” idea at variance with “the consensus of science scholars” and may not be discussed in science classes, which would be a violation of “academic integrity.”
“Students and the public are owed a genuine evaluation of the merits of ID, touching as the theory does on ultimate questions of life’s origins,” said Stephen Meyer, director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “However, when scientific discussion is censored by a university, fair-minded evaluation becomes impossible.”
Added the Discovery Institute’s West: “In the Orwellian world of Ball State’s president, academic freedom apparently means only the ‘freedom’ to support the majority’s view. This is exactly how the academic ‘consensus’ against the theory of intelligent design is maintained – by intimidation, fiat, and legal threats.”
The theory of intelligent design posits that the complexity of observable and testable features in living creatures and nature is best explained as the product of an intelligent cause rather than an unguided process such as natural selection.
The latest letter to Ball State said: “It is especially disturbing that BSU seems to have been guided in its actions by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group so extreme that it is currently trying to remove the Star of David from a proposed Holocaust memorial in Ohio by making the incredible claim that the memorial ‘shouldn’t single out just one group of people who was harmed during that tragedy,” as if Jews were not a special target of Nazi genocide.”
The Discovery Institute charges that Ball State’s actions “not only violate BSU’s Faculty and Professional Personnel Handbook, but they raise potential constitutional violations of the rights of free speech, freedom of religion, due process, and equal protection.”
The organization cited the Honors 296, Inquiries in Physical Sciences, course.
“Based on our review of course syllabi for multiple sections of Honors 296 and its parallel courses (Honors 297), Inquiries in Earth Sciences’ and Honors 298, Inquires in Life Sciences,” the Discovery group said, sections “contain significant amounts of non-scientific material.”
“You have decided that ‘intelligent design is not appropriate content for science courses.’ To be lawful, your ban on the discussion of intelligent design in science classes must apply equally to science faculty who oppose intelligent design as well as to science faculty who support intelligent design,” the letter said. “Thus, under your new policy, BSU science faculty hostile to intelligent design can no longer be allowed to voice their criticisms of intelligent design in their science classes.”