The Thomas More Law Center, the same legal group defending the school board in Dover, PA, is threatening to file a lawsuit against the Gull Lake Public Schools for telling two junior high science teachers that they could no longer teach creationism in their classrooms. Michigan Citizens for Science, an organization whose board I sit on, has been involved with this case for several months behind the scenes, since being notified of what was being taught there by a parent whose child was in the class. That parent is a biologist and was shocked when his daughter brought home not only pro-ID material, but young earth creationist material as well, including classroom material claiming that the Grand Canyon had formed in a single year as a result of Noah’s flood. The parent contacted us and we made contact with the Gull Lake administration, the school board and the teachers. We worked to resolve the situation without the bounds of the law and responsible curriculum standards, even holding an in-service day with the teachers to show them the lack of scientific credibility in the material they were using.
At one point, an agreement was reached within the school district. They appointed a 7-member committee internally to review the situation and reach a decision. That committee included the two teachers who were using the material, the principals of both the junior high and high school, the superintendent and two other science teachers. They all agreed that the committee would review the situation, hold a vote, and then all 7 of them would back the decision of the committee regardless of how it went. That vote was 5-2 against using the creationist materials in the science classes, with the two teachers obviously being the only dissenting votes. But the teachers decided not to honor their agreement and are now threatening a lawsuit.
The fact that the lawsuit will be coming from the teachers instead of from the ACLU or Americans United is an important distinction between this case and the Dover case. It changes the legal claims entirely because the plaintiffs must challenge the constitutionality of the policy. In Dover, the plaintiffs, being the ACLU on behalf of local parents, are claiming that ID is an essentially religious idea and therefore to teach it violates the establishment clause. But in Gull Lake, the teachers must claim that their constitutional rights are somehow violated by not being allowed to teach what they want to teach, and that is a much tougher case to make. The letter that the TMLC wrote to the Gull Lake school board hints at the legal argument they will attempt to make, which is that not allowing the teachers to use creationist material violates their academic freedom. This is an argument that has consistently lost in court.
Also ironic is that the TMLC makes a point of arguing that ID is not creationism, yet the teachers in this case used a mixture of ID and traditional young earth creationist material. This will be fun to watch the ID crowd deal with, as they are loathe to have their ideas associated in any way with “creation science”, despite the fact that all of their arguments originated in creationist material. But here we have ID and YEC material mixing together, even while their attorneys attempt to claim they have nothing to do with each other. Stay tuned for much, much more on this one.