Legal Group Threatens Lawsuit if School Teaches Creationism

A legal group that specializes in issues relating to religious liberty said it would consider taking legal action against a Colorado public school district if the school board decides to introduce creationism into its science classes.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State said it will consider suing the Liberty School District in Joes, Colo., if the school opts to teach creationism when it meets to vote on the issue Tuesday.

The five-member board, which represents a school of about 100 students in a farm community on the eastern plains of Colorado, is contemplating a proposal by Rev. Douglas Sanford, a school board member who is also a Baptist minister.

Sanford called for the adoption of a new policy called "Creation Science/Evolution Science Education" that would require the district to give "balanced treatment" between evolution and creationism in science classes.

"We didn't want to teach religion - I am opposed to teaching religion in school - all we wanted to do was to bring in some information about creation science," Sanford told

"By 'creation science' I do not mean teaching God, I do not mean teaching Adam and Eve, I do not mean teaching any of those things, but I mean to teach that instead of everything happening by chance, that there was design to our universe, to our world, to our human body."

But attorneys for Americans United say the policy is patently unconstitutional and if enacted, will almost certainly bring about litigation.

Steve Benen, a spokesman for the group, said the theory of evolution is more than a "hunch" or a series of "assumptions," but rather is an explanation of natural phenomena built on testable observations and hypotheses.

The suggestion that creationism and evolution are somehow equal because they're both "theories" is to make a mockery of science, he said.

"That is not an accurate reflection of what theories are in the scientific community," Benen said.

"There is as much evidence to support the theory of evolution as there is the theory of gravity, and we're not teaching kids in public schools that maybe gravity is true and maybe gravity isn't true, it's only a theory," he argued.

Moreover, opponents of the teaching of creationism as science have the law on their side, Benen said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that a 1929 Arkansas statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution was unconstitutional. In 1987, the Court ruled unconstitutional a 1981 Louisiana "balanced treatment" law requiring the teaching of creation "science" in public schools whenever evolution is taught.

But Sanford argued that the Supreme Court also ruled that "'teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of mankind to schoolchildren might be done with the clear, secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.'"

"Our intent is to teach science," Sanford said. "It specifically says in our policy, 'no Bible will be used.' We're not teaching any religion."

As a possible alternative to teaching creationism in science classes, critics have suggested that schools should examine incorporating different religious approaches to life's origins in comparative religion class, or a social studies class.

At issue in Colorado is a science class teaching non-scientific principles, Benen said.

Sanford said, however, the Joes school was too small with too few resources to set up additional classes.