A dispute over Ball State University’s ban on intelligent design – which reasons a creation logically has a Creator – has drawn the attention of four lawmakers in Indiana who are asking school officials for an explanation.
The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which has been in a pitched battle with the school over its decision to ban faculty from talking about intelligent design, previously demanded 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.
Now the the institute says a letter from state Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and others to Ball State’s president and board of trustees expresses “serious concerns” about the school’s censorship of physicist Eric Hedin and others.
Hedin previously taught an honors course on the “Boundaries of Science,” which briefly “discussed the idea that nature displays evidence of intelligent design, but the course was removed from BSU’s course schedule for spring semester 2014 following a controversial investigation that operated outside of normal procedures,” Discovery Institute said.
In their letter, the state lawmakers wondered “whether improper procedures were followed while investigating Prof. Eric Hedin’s course, and whether an ad hoc committee appointed to investigate him was filled with persons with conflicts of interest.”
“We are also concerned about the cancellation of Hedin’s class and the policy you announced last summer restricting faculty speech on intelligent design. We are disturbed by reports that while you restrict faculty speech on intelligent design, BSU authorized a seminar that teaches ‘Science Must Destroy Religion.'”
The lawmakers said the policy banning professors from expressing their views on intelligent design “raises many troubling questions.”
“One of the most important is: Does the policy forbid science professors from explaining either their support or rejection of intelligent design in answer to student questions about intelligent design in class?”
As WND reported, the Discovery Institute noted that the sole textbook used in the course is an anthology edited by a prominent atheist in which 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 essay 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.”
Regarding the lawmakers’ questions, Discovery Institute attorney Joshua Youngkin said, “Thus far BSU has refused to answer many questions about its mistreatment of Prof. Hedin. BSU even recently filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor to delay disclosing emails requested under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.”
As the conflict developed, WND reported 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 resulting “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.”