WASHINGTON, DC - February 12 - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the Florida State Board of Education to reject a Religious Right drive to weaken proposed new science standards.
The Board of Education is scheduled to vote Feb. 19 on “world-class” science standards that for the first time explicitly include evolution. Religious Right activists and their allies are intently lobbying the board to water down the standards in keeping with fundamentalist Christian theology.
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “Public schools must teach science, not religion, in biology classes. It’s up to parents, not government officials, to make decisions about religious training.
“School officials,” he added, “have a high responsibility to resist all efforts to make the curriculum conform to the tenets of one faith tradition. Florida children deserve the best science education possible, not religious concepts disguised as science.”
In a letter to School Board Chairman T. Willard Fair, Americans United said the Constitution requires a separation of church and state and that the courts have repeatedly forbidden teaching religion in science classes.
“The Board should not,” Americans United said, “risk the sound scientific education of Florida’s children or costly litigation that could result from adopting any standards that would include creationism or intelligent design…. Retreating from the proposed science standards to include religious ideas in science classes would ‘compromise the objectives of public education and the goal of a high-quality science education,’ negatively affecting Florida’s students.”
Americans United warned that students’ religious liberty rights are at stake.
“Any effort to introduce creationism in Florida’s public school science curriculum,” the AU letter insisted, “will harm the religious liberty rights of students and their families…. Parents, not schools, have the right to direct the religious upbringing of their children.
“Our nation is becoming more and more religiously diverse and Florida’s students and their families reflect this diversity. One specific religion’s view of the origins of life should not be taught to the exclusion of others.”
The Americans United letter was signed by AU State Legislative Counsel Dena S. Sher.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.