Americans United protests religious censorship at Pennsylvania school.

Position:People & Events

Attorneys with Americans United have warned officials at a Pennsylvania school district to stop using religious criteria when considering textbooks for adoption.

Members of the Annville-Cleona School Board voted in June to ban a reading series called Nine Good Habits for All Readers because it talked about evolution and excluded religious theories about the development of the universe. During the meeting, board member Kathy Horst remarked, "I will be voting against this because it incorporates evolution as a fact. I understand it's hard to find any books that don't, but I just feel if we keep voting for it, nobody will have any reason to change it."

Continued Horst, "We are given evolution, stated as a fact in a textbook, but we are not given the option of intelligent design, stated either as fact or a theory. We're only giving our students one view and not giving them an option."

According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Horst objected to statements in the books indicating that the universe is billions of years old and objected to references to the Big Bang, cloning and stem-cell research. She also complained that the books promoted "radical environmentalism" because they discussed global-warming.

Americans United Legal Director Ayesha Khan wrote to Board President Richard Newmaster and District Superintendent Marsha Zehner in July to warn them that teaching creationism--or its latest variant "intelligent design"--in public schools violates the First Amendment.

"We are writing to inform you that it is constitutionally problematic to tailor your reading program to be consistent with a religious viewpoint," Khan wrote.

AU's Legal Department has also contacted education officials in Nebraska, urging them to back off plans to advise local public schools that they may teach intelligent design in science classes.

At its June 7 meeting, members of the State Board of Education announced that local public schools must teach evolution to meet state accrediting standards but went on to say that the guidelines do not prohibit instruction about intelligent design.

Supporters of church-state separation urged the board to close the door on intelligent design, which they assert is merely an updated version of creationism. The board, however, while voting 52 to approve the science standards with the evolution mandate, went on to express its opinion that local schools have the option...

To continue reading