April 21, 2008. The Dallas Morning News, in the Metro Section, carried this story of what is certain to become a First Amendment case of Supreme Court stature. If it makes it that far.
In an April 24 ruling, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rejected the institute’s degree program because it did not meet state academic standards. The institute, claiming THECB violated its civil rights, has filed a lawsuit [HUGE PDF download, but worth the read]. There is an article on the institute’s web site, in which the author, James J. S. Johnson, J.D., shouts “Censorship!” Personally, I fail to see where censorship would enter into the argument, but Johnson is a regular contributor to the site and makes other weird arguments.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas, alleges that THECB rejected the degree program because of the institute's claim that scientific evidence shows the earth is only 6,000 years old, which is in conflict with accepted science. In papers filed with the court, the institute claims "The monopolistic realities of the science education market in Texas (and in America generally) would limit creationist learners to science education opportunities from evolutionist graduate schools." It further says that the institute is "the only graduate school which specializes in creationism-informed science education."
For its part, THECB is concerned that the proposed master’s program would not properly prepare future classroom teachers to teach established science standards in Texas public-school classrooms. The board would not comment further, stating that the case is under litigation.
The Institute for Creation Research was formed in 1970 by the late Henry M. Morris, a Dallasite known as the father of creation science. Religionists claim creation science as a theory that centers on a philosophy in which science and religion both indicate that the Earth and all living things were created by an intelligent being. The Morris biography is one of an individual intent upon finding biblical justification for everything in nature, and either ignoring anything which did not agree with his preconceived ideas, or creating more myth as explanation.
It is good that the board, consisting of educators and scientists, has declined the application, but the THECB may be out-maneuvered and the lawsuit become moot. Creationists members of the Texas Legislature are making an end run in an effort to aid the institute’s efforts. Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has introduced a bill [HB-2800, PDF download] that would exempt the institute from state rules that accredited, degree-granting universities must follow.
So here we have another effort, in the never-ending onslaught on reason, by religionists to force their supernatural worldview on the citizens of Texas. If the Berman bill passes muster, or if the lawsuit makes it to the Roberts’s court, the result is likely to be a degradation of educational standards in Texas classrooms. With Texas being among the top three purchasers of textbooks of any state, this will not bode well for the rest of the nation.
UPDATE: I should have checked before I posted, but I did not. There are other, more eloquent pundits, blogging on this story. Please view the following:
Timothy Sandefur's Freespace (this is really good, and you really should read it)
Skepacabra, which offers other interesting links