Monday, February 10, 2014

Kansas Defends Science Standards

“Distinctions must be drawn to recognize not simply religious and anti-religious, but non-religious governmental activity as well,” said lawyers for the State of Kansas.

In December, Kansas asked a federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state’s science standards.

The science standards teach that science looks only to natural causes for natural events.

The challengers, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), said “Implementation…by Kansas will cause it to endorse a particular religious viewpoint.…with a primary effect that is not religiously neutral, and…will treat atheists and materialists as favored insiders and theists as disfavored outsiders.…”

The State’s lawyers responded that the “Complaint…asks the Court to turn Establishment Clause jurisprudence on its head by ruling that secular scientific principles are actually religious.”

They pointed out that the COPE lawsuit misrepresented the standards. For instance, COPE’s complaint said the standards caused children to consider “ultimate religious questions like what is the cause and nature of life and the universe—where do we come from?”

The State’s lawyers replied, “The…Standards simply do not ask this question. The phrase ‘where do we come from’ is not in them.…the Standards do not claim that science has all the answers to life’s deepest questions.”

On the contrary, the standards explicitly state that “not all questions can be answered by science.”

While MCPEARL members care most about COPE’s effort to bring miracles to science class, the Kansas lawyers offered the court a way to dismiss the lawsuit without discussing religion.

They declared that the Kansas Board of Education and Department of Education, which adopted the standards, lack the authority to implement them. Local school districts may take them or leave them. Therefore, the Board and Department have not and cannot injure COPE. Because COPE has suffered no injury, it has no standing to sue.

The suit is COPE v. Kansas.

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