West Virginia lawmaker insists creationism be included in science classes

Thursday, February 3, 2000

A West Virginia lawmaker claims that the Christian story of creation is a science that must be taught alongside evolution in the state's public school classrooms.

Democratic Delegate Paul E. Prunty introduced his “Balanced Treatment” bill last month; it is pending in the state House Committee on Education. The bill would require all public schools to “give balanced treatment to creation science and evolution science, in classroom lectures, in textbook materials, in library materials, and in other educational programs in public schools to the extent that the lectures, textbook materials, library materials and educational programs deal in any way with the subject of the origin of man, life, the earth or the universe.”

Furthermore, the bill states that creation science “means the sudden creation of the universe and energy; and the separate ancestry for man and apes.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, which recently helped defeat a county's attempt to permit schools to teach creationism, says Prunty's bill subverts the separation of church and state.

Hilary Chiz, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia, said that her group was “vigorously opposing Delegate Prunty's bill.”

“First of all, the introduction of creation science into public school classrooms would be foolhardy,” Chiz said. “We are talking about science education, which takes place in public schools, not Sunday school classes. If folks want to discuss or analyze creation science, which is gleaned from a religious perspective and has nothing to do with natural science, they should do so at home, church or religious schools.”

Last December, Chiz successfully lobbied against a proposal by the Kanawha County Board of Education that would have encouraged public school teachers to teach creationism as science.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard invalidated a Louisiana law that forbade evolution from being taught in the public schools unless accompanied by instruction in creation science. Finding nothing scientific about creation science, the court noted that the concept is based on a Christian belief that a theistic being created the universe in a matter of days.

Writing for the Edwards majority, Justice William Brennan said the purpose of the Louisiana law “was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint.” Such an act, Brennan wrote, was unconstitutional because government cannot use public classrooms “to advance religious views.”