First up from the God Machine this week is a curious lawsuit out of Kansas, where a conservative group went to federal court with an odd argument about science and religion.
An organization that calls itself Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) argued that evolutionary biology should be prohibited in public-school science classes because, as the group’s members see it, evolution is part of a “non-theistic” religious agenda. As the Associated Press reported this week, the lawsuit didn’t fare well: a federal judge threw the case out.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled that a nonprofit group, parents and taxpayers challenging the standards did not claim specific enough injuries from adoption of the guidelines to allow the case to go forward.The State Board of Education last year adopted standards developed by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council. The guidelines treat both evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts to be taught from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Raw Story’s report noted that COPE characterized the science standards as unacceptable because they lead “impressionable” students “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate questions like what is the cause and nature of life in the universe – ‘where do we come from?’”
I’m not sure why that necessarily has to be a theological question, but COPE didn’t ask me.
Crabtree, an Obama-appointed judge, said the conservative plaintiffs asserted only an “abstract stigmatic injury” that isn’t enough to sustain a lawsuit.
I suppose Citizens for Objective Public Education deserves some credit for creativity – it’s true that public schools are required to remain neutral in matters of faith – but going to court to block science lessons in science classes was, to put it charitably, a longshot. The group doesn’t have to like modern biology, but trying to label it a religion isn’t going to work.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The result of a lengthy and important investigation: “For decades, officials at Bob Jones University told sexual assault victims that they were to blame for their abuse, and to not report it to the police because doing so would damage their families, churches and the university, according to a long-awaited independent report released Thursday.”
* The alternative was a lawsuit the city in Georgia would lose: “Wednesday night, in a stunning reversal, the Kennesaw City Council said they plan to approve the new mosque that they rejected last week.”
* It’s amazing this court fight has been ongoing for a quarter of a century: “The U.S. Senate passed a defense policy bill Friday that would allow a 43-foot cross to remain atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego, possibly ending a 25-year legal battle” (thanks to my colleague Robert Lyon for the heads-up).
* Compelling: “Sometimes the best way to combat hate is by telling a story. Vishavjit Singh began receiving a barrage of hateful, racist and verbally abusive comments last week, following the release of a 28-second Facebook Tips video he appeared in. The New York-based Sikh cartoonist offered a surprising response.”
* This probably contradicts Roman Catholic doctrine, but let’s not be sticklers: “We’ve all heard the expression ‘all dogs go to heaven.’ On Wednesday, the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people around the world gave it his imprimatur. During his weekly address in the Vatican on Wednesday, Pope Francis was consoling a little boy who had recently lost his dog, assuring the boy that he and his furry friend would reunite in heaven.”
* I have a hard time imagining a defense for this discrimination: “[Seven] states still have articles in their constitutions saying people who do not believe in God are not eligible to hold public office. Maryland’s Constitution still says belief in God is a requirement even for jurors and witnesses. Now a coalition of nonbelievers says it is time to get rid of the atheist bans because they are discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional.”
* One more annoying thing about Congress before it wraps up for the year: “For the third time in four years, Colorado Representative Doug Lamborn (R) introduced a resolution intended to defend Christians against the so-called ‘War on Christmas.’” Yes, that’s the same Doug Lamborn who urged active-duty U.S. generals to resign, during an actual war, in order to undermine the Obama administration.