Monday, December 11, 2006


Cut a Fat Hog

In Ouachita Parish, down in Louisiana, the school board has granted teachers the academic freedom to teach "scientific evidence" in science classes, by which they mean intelligent design inspired nonsense.

This pleases Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute who claims, disingenuously, that opponents of the new parish policy such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union dislike "freedom of inquiry and academic freedom."

Here in Kansas, we'd say Casey, the Ouachita Parish school board, and the Louisiana Family Foundation have "cut a fat hog." Or, in language that those of you who live in other parts of the country might better understand, they've bitten off more than they may be able to chew.

There's an odd conjunction of events in the news just now that neatly illustrates why these Johnny-come-lately recruits to freedom of inquiry and academic freedom -- they are, after all, the ideological descendents of those who once prosecuted John Scopes for teaching evolution -- may soon find they're suffering from a bad case of indigestion.

Right-wing Christians in Albemarle County, Va. were shocked and outraged recently when they found fliers sent home from school in their children's backpacks inviting them to “an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we’ll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule.”

As Rob Boston of Americans United reports:

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church’s Vacation Bible School to their peers via “backpack mail.” Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins’ father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring “distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.”

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski “sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county,” and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system.

That's when some local Pagans who attend Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Charlottesville, decided to take advantage of the backpack mail system to advertise their event, as well.

That was a turn of events the religious right -- those intrepid defenders of religious freedom -- hadn't anticipated. One Baptist minister blogged that the Pagan note "adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).”

The creationist and intelligent design faithful want the academic freedom to teach "scientific criticisms" of evolution. We wonder how they'll like it when a teacher uses that academic freedom to teach scientific criticisms of the Christian creation myth and intelligent design.

Note: Ed Brayton of Dispatches From the Culture Wars has been writing about this story as well.


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