We have many media reports today on the El Tejon ID suit. The full press release from Americans United is available on their website. The LA Times has an article about the controversy that includes a couple of interesting tidbits. Of the district’s legal advice, it says:
At a special meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District on Jan. 1, at which the board approved the new course, “Philosophy of Design,” school Supt. John W. Wight said that he had consulted the school district’s attorneys and that they “had told him that as long as the course was called ‘philosophy,’ ” it could pass legal muster, according to the lawsuit.
If that is true, then the district got very bad advice from their attorney. If the school is advocating a religious belief, it doesn’t matter what kind of class it is. Merely adding the label “philosophy” does not change religious advocacy from unacceptable to acceptable. It’s not enough merely to move it from one department to another, you also have to change the way it’s taught. You can teach about religious views, but you cannot advocate them. And the fact that the teacher intends to advocate the creationist position is crystal clear from the course description quoted in the LA Times piece:
An initial course description, which was distributed to students and their families last month, said “the class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin’s philosophy is not rock solid. The class will discuss intelligent design as an alternative response to evolution. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the earth is thousands of years old, not billions.”
The New York Times has the AP story on the lawsuit. Nothing much new there. I think it’s pretty obvious what has happened here. This teacher wanted to find a way to teach creationism and 3 members of the school board agreed with her. So they rushed this class in very quickly despite the fact that she simply isn’t qualified to teach the course. The course syllabus was created in the space of a couple of weeks and was done so badly that it included a guest speaker who passed away over a year ago and another who was never even asked to speak.