Christian Law Association

Legal Opinion Memorandum

On

Ohio House Bill 679

 

A Bill to mandate that scientific evidence both supporting or inconsistent with the theory of evolution be presented objectively to Ohio public school children.

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It is the legal opinion of attorneys at the Christian Law Association that in crafting the language of Ohio House Bill 679, state representatives have steered a careful course that avoids the constitutional pitfalls of other state’s legislative efforts to appropriately educate public school children in the scientific theories of "the origins of Man and other living things."

The House Bill merely requires that scientific evidence that is both consistent and inconsistent with the scientific theory of evolution be presented objectively to Ohio public school children. This legislative proposal simply recognizes the latest scientific evidence in various fields that touch upon evolutionary theories, some of which call into question previously held beliefs about the evolutionary process. This Bill is consistent with the best educational principles and standards, and avoids any controversies about whether or not creationism may or should be taught alongside evolution. The newest evidence developing in various scientific disciplines has nothing to do with God, the Bible or Creation. It is objective scientific data being developed in respected universities and laboratories in America and around the globe. To withhold such cutting edge scientific information from Ohio public school children could border on educational malfeasance.

Other states, including Kansas and Nevada, have recently expressed similar concerns about school children in their states receiving only one side of what is a rapidly developing scientific debate about the continuing validity of Darwinian theories. Charles Darwin developed his theories long before scientists could investigate the inner intricacies of cellular operations and other scientific factors which speak to the scientific probability of spontaneous evolution from one species to another. In other words, the macro evolutionary component of Darwinism is becoming scientifically somewhat "out of date" as technology moves into the 21st Century.

The Ohio Bill avoids the pitfalls that defeated earlier legislation through various constitutional challenges. For example, in Arkansas the state legislature passed a statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution altogether. That statute was held to be unconstitutional in the case of Epperson v. Arkansas, 939 U.S. 97 (1968). The state of Louisiana later required that creationism must be taught alongside evolution if evolution were taught in Louisiana schools. That statute was struck down in the case of Edwards v. Aquillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987). Most recently Tangipahoa Parish School Board in Louisiana mandated that a disclaimer be read prior to the teaching of evolution in the district’s public schools. In the case of Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Bd. of Educ., 201 F.3d 602 (5th Cir. 2000), the appeals court upheld a ruling that the disclaimer was unconstitutional. The disclaimer stated that the teaching of evolution was "not intended to influence or dissuade any other concept, including the Biblical version." All of these constitutional challenges were based upon the notion, agreed to by the courts, that creationism is religion, while evolution is science.

The Ohio Bill does not require the teaching of creationism alongside evolution. In fact, it does not even suggest it. The Bill does not require disclaimers to be presented along with the presentation of the evolutionary theory; nor does it prohibit the teaching of evolution altogether. All the Ohio Bill does is to require that the subject of evolution be presented honestly and objectively in the classroom using all of the available scientific data, whether that data is consistent or inconsistent with Darwin’s views-- which, it must be remembered, were postulated in 1850, well before scientists had the technological means available today to study and test his hypotheses.

This Bill should withstand any constitutional challenge since it has nothing to do with religion. Its purpose and intended outcome is merely to present students with the most up-to-date scientific information available. There is no hint of any sort of religious indoctrination or presentation of religious theories. Anyone who would object to such a secular goal could be suspected of seeking to artificially uphold a 150-year-old theory that can no longer stand on its own two feet.

Copyright 2000, Christian Law Association

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