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CULTURE DIGEST: Evolution debate heats up again in Kan., across nation; Allstate sued for religious discrimination

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–After the Kansas State Board of Education approved a draft of new science standards Aug. 9 that would allow teachers to teach the controversy surrounding Darwinian evolution, the debate over what material belongs in schools and what doesn’t belong has gained momentum once again.

Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education and a leading proponent of teaching only evolution in schools, resorted to tactics of name-calling, unfavorable labeling and attempting to discredit Intelligent Design by equating it with creation science in an Aug. 14 opinion piece for USA Today.

In a companion piece presented in a point-counterpoint fashion, Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute laid out scientific evidence for why the debate over evolution should be taught in public schools.

Scott gave an overview of evolution’s presence in schools, beginning with the Scopes Trial and moving to the ‘70s and ‘80s when she believes “creationism was repackaged as ‘creation science’ in the hopes that it would be taught along with evolution.”

Now, she said, Intelligent Design is little more than another repackaging of creationism.

“To avoid this accusation, and thus circumvent the Establishment Clause, ID advocates are also coy about the identity of the designer, claiming that it doesn’t have to be God,” she wrote, along with Glenn Branch, deputy director of the center. “But, token allusions to the possibility of extraterrestrial or time-traveling biochemists notwithstanding, no one is fooled into thinking that the designer is not the Designer: God.”

Scott and Branch contended that “teaching the controversy” is only a way for creationists to breed doubt about evolution in the minds of students so that they’ll have no choice but to believe in creation.

The quality science education children need includes “a healthy dose of evolution, uncompromised by sectarian dogma, bad science and fake ‘critical analysis,’” they concluded.

Meyer and John Angus Campbell, coauthors of “Darwinism, Design and Public Education,” noted that 71 percent of the public favors a school policy like the one passed in Kansas, according to a Zogby poll.

“We think there is a way to teach evolution that advances science education, fosters civil discourse and also respects public opinion,” they wrote. “We encourage teachers to present the case for Darwin’s theory of evolution as Darwin himself did: as a credible, but contestable, argument.”

Teaching the controversy helps students understand how science works, Meyer and Campbell said, by teaching them how best to interpret evidence and understand the status of a theory.

Such evidence, they said, includes events such as the “Cambrian explosion,” which show that “new forms of life appear suddenly in the fossil record without evidence of connection to earlier forms — contradicting Darwin’s picture of the history of life as a fully-connected branching tree.”

They also noted that many scientists “doubt the ability of Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection to produce the major innovations — the new organs and body plans — that arise during life’s history.”

“As John Scopes said, ‘If you limit a teacher to only one side of anything, the whole country will eventually have only one thought. … I believe in teaching every aspect of every problem or theory,’” Meyer and Campbell wrote.

ALLSTATE SUED FOR RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION — Allstate, one of the nation’s leading insurance providers, is being sued by a former employee who claims he was fired because of a column he wrote against “same-sex marriage” and the homosexual lifestyle.

J. Matt Barber was a manager in the corporate security division of Allstate’s Chicago-area headquarters for five years. In December 2004, he wrote an article on his own time and at home expressing his opinion that the homosexual lifestyle is aberrant. The article was carried by a conservative website, and he contends he made no mention of his employment with Allstate.

But in January, Barber was called into a meeting with two human resource officials and presented with a copy of the column. They asked if he had written it, he answered that he had, and then he was told that it did not reflect Allstate’s view. He was suspended with pay and escorted off company grounds, and three days later he was fired, according to the Pioneer Press news service in suburban Chicago.

Allstate argued that Barber should not receive unemployment pay after his termination, but the unemployment office found in his favor and ruled that he was entitled to the money, stating, “The claimant was discharged from Allstate Insurance Company because an outside organization had complained about an article he had written while on his own time,” according to a report by The Conservative Voice.

Barber has since filed a federal lawsuit alleging religious discrimination, and he is being represented by David Gibbs III, who was the attorney for Terri Schiavo’s parents during her right to life battle last spring.

“To have Fortune 100 companies like Allstate firing people for expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs and even their personal viewpoints on their own time demonstrates just how out of kilter things have gotten,” Gibbs said.

“Allstate aggressively pushes and promotes the homosexual agenda in the name of tolerance, but the minute someone speaks up with what would be considered the traditional moral-values viewpoint, the tolerance disappears and it results in a termination,” he added.

Barber said the loss of his job came just two weeks after his wife gave birth to their third child in four years following a high risk pregnancy.

“We’re losing our home, and we may be forced into bankruptcy,” he said, according to The Conservative Voice July 21, “but I know that somehow God will provide. I believe it’s crucial to take a stand for truth, even if that stand results in suffering in the short term.”

LUTHERANS VOTE AGAINST ORDAINING ACTIVE HOMOSEXUALS — The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America chose not to follow the example of ordaining active homosexual clergy set by the Episcopal Church.

Lutherans, at their national assembly in Orlando Aug. 12, voted 503-490 against a measure that would have allowed bishops and church districts to ordain homosexuals who were in a long-term relationship and met other restrictions, according to the Associated Press. The rule change would have needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Delegates in the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination also voted against an amendment that would have given pastors permission to bless same-sex unions, The New York Times reported. The three measures were the culmination of three years of work by a special church task force charged with examining the issue of homosexuality within the ELCA.

“This church is not ready to make major changes in its ordination practices,” New Jersey Synod Bishop Roy Riley told AP. “That was the crux, really.”

The 4.9 million-member denomination also voted 851-127 in favor of keeping the church unified despite differences over homosexuality. The presiding bishop, Mark Hanson, said during a news conference following the meeting that he hoped homosexuals understand that they are welcome in Lutheran churches despite the votes.

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  • Erin Curry