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A View from the Experts: ACLU wants religion kept out of schools

Sunday, March 17, 2002

By Lynda Guydon Taylor, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When West Greene School District recently sanctioned a seminar on creationism, the American Civil Liberties Union wasted little time in notifying the board the event would be illegal.

The board at first approved the March 25 assembly but later rescinded its endorsement when Witold "Vic" Walczak, executive director of the Pittsburgh Chapter of ACLU, weighed in on the controversy.

"Public schools, which serve children of many different faiths and of no faith, simply cannot promote the beliefs of one religion, even if it is the dominant faith in the community," Walczak warned in a letter, saying the organization had received several complaints.

Steve Grohman, the man behind creationism seminar, sees the program as a fair exchange of ideas that he and his family take on the road. Traveling in a motor home, the Grohmans have visited 46 states.

"I tell students up front, 'You're welcome to believe I'm the goofiest fruit ball you've seen in your life,' [but] I show them there's obvious design in nature. [Man] didn't just show up one day."

From Grohman's perspective, God is the creator, and that's the line his talk takes, arguing evolution is no more scientifically proven than creationism.

But Walczak called it, "a religious point of view based on the Book of Genesis, and why are they not presenting the Hindu, Native American, Muslim or Buddhist [views]? Courts have repeatedly ruled this is a religious belief that cannot be taught as science."

If the district wanted to offer a comparative religion course showing how they differ and what each says about the origin of the universe, that would be OK. But based on what he saw on Grohman's Web site, Walczak labeled the seminar nothing short of evangelism.

"We live in too pluralistic a society for the public schools to be indoctrinating children with a particular faith," Walczak said.

Although 77 years removed from the Scopes "monkey trial," Walczak is not surprised that the issue still surfaces.

"There's a lot of people of faith who feel very strongly that the entire theory of evolution is a threat to their religion. I don't fault people for trying," Walczak said.

But public schools cannot teach creationism as science, he said.

And why not, Grohman argues. The Bible says everything produces after its own kind. Dogs produce dogs, cats produce cats and so forth. Because that can be observed, he believes, creationism has more science on its side than does evolution.

He said evolution is as much a religious belief as is creationism. Grohman finds no scientific logic in the theory that man evolved from "fins and flippers." He cited a recent Discover magazine article saying that fins and flippers evolved into hands and legs. Where's the science for that, he asked? Science demands proof, and there's no way to prove that theory.

Grohman argued if people believing in evolution, "have truth on their side, what difference does it make if somebody else is going to show something else?" he said. "I'm not trying to force anybody to believe anything. If only one view is presented in a factual format, people may grow up believing it, but that doesn't mean it's true."

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