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Ideological Tyranny in Ohio

Michael Craven | Center for Christ & Culture | Monday, March 27, 2006

Ideological Tyranny in Ohio

This past February the Ohio State Board of Education voted 11-4 to remove all language that was critical of evolution from its state's science curriculum. Previously, Ohio's public school science guidelines said that students should be free to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The decision by the State Board of Education effectively eliminates that freedom. This means that science teachers and students are no longer authorized to discuss scientific evidence that questions the claims of Darwin's theory.

Suffice it to say that this is in many ways a disturbing decision on the part of public school officials; it is at its very root a form of "thought control." More disturbing is the possibility that this decision was ultimately influenced by impending pressure from the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State and their recent success in Dover, Pennsylvania.

In October 2004 the school board in the rural district of Dover, Pennsylvania voted to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design. Granted, such a decision on their part may have been somewhat misguided. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports scientists studying intelligent-design theory commented, "While the Dover board is to be commended for trying to teach Darwinian theory in a more open-minded manner, this is the wrong way to go about it," said Dr. John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "When we first read about the Dover policy, we publicly criticized it because according to published reports the intent was to mandate the teaching of intelligent design," explained West. "Although we think discussion of intelligent design should not be prohibited, we don't think intelligent design should be required in public schools. What should be required is full disclosure of the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory," added West, "which is the approach supported by the overwhelming majority of the public."

I must add that according to a report on MSNBC, the Dover board of education was not attempting to eliminate the teaching of evolutionary theory but was seeking a more "balanced" approach to teaching about origins and only sought to supplement the existing evolutionary curriculum.

Nevertheless, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State enjoined a group of Dover parents to file a federal lawsuit against the district claiming that their children's constitutional rights had been violated.

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "In his landmark ruling in December, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones found that the board had violated the Constitution when it introduced intelligent design into its high school science curriculum last year." I confess that this ruling confuses me relative to understanding what if any constitutional provision exists for narrowing the examination of ideas. I frankly thought that was one of the great protections put forth in the Constitution: the freedom of all ideas and their unencumbered expression. Let's face it; Darwinism remains as much if not more of a philosophical idea as does Intelligent Design in terms of being testable scientific fact.

Nonetheless, "the York County school district...agreed to pay $1 million to cover the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees in a settlement lawyers said was designed to discourage school boards from considering similar action in the future," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer article. The article went on to report that "The majority of the settlement money will be split between the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State..."

The goal was precisely as reported, "This sends a message to other (tax-payer supported) school districts contemplating intelligent design that the price tag can be truly substantial, and it rewards the school district and the community for cleaning their own house and voting out the old board," said Richard Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In other words, don't challenge secular humanist doctrines such as Darwinism.

This is ideological tyranny through economic intimidation; a favored and quite successful tactic of the ACLU and other liberal interest groups. It was this impending threat that motivated the Ohio State Board of Education to reverse its earlier position which allowed critical analysis and discussion of scientific facts that challenge evolutionary dogma. Martha Wise, the Ohio State School School Board member who led the fight for censoring Ohio's teaching standards alluded to this in a recent editorial, "Our board had to decide whether to waste millions of taxpayer dollars to hear a federal judge tell them the same thing Judge Jones told the Dover, Pa., board." (Cincinnati Inquirer, February 22, 2006)

This should be of great concern to every American regardless of their position on Darwinian evolution. This decision was not based on the facts arising out of intelligent examination and debate of the ideas themselves. It resulted from a fear of financial risk.

As a result of litigious intimidation, the plurality of ideas, so essential to sound public and scientific debate, is utterly undermined. Ideas are no longer allowed to compete for supremacy in the marketplace based on the merits of their respective facts and arguments. Instead, public discourse and thought is controlled by special interest groups who in this case stand to profit financially from their efforts. A dangerous precedent indeed!

Copyright S. Michael Craven, 2006. For reprint permission contact Philip Barnett at [email protected].

S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to recapture and demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit:

Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.

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