A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a case brought in Kansas by a religiously minded group of parents and students. The plaintiffs were concerned about the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in their home state.
As Ars reported in 2013 when the case was first filed, the NGSS standards are a nationwide effort to improve science education in the US. They are supported by organizations such as the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
This case, COPE v Kansas Board of Educationis a remarkable victory for science – and a blow to the creationist mob and its progeny.
The Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) has led the charge against the Kansas NGSS, claiming that these new standards are, in fact, a form of religious indoctrination. (The NGSS has been adopted by 18 states, including Kansas.) How could COPE come to that conclusion? Because, it argues, the NGSS does not contain any religious explanation for the origin of life and the universe. Therefore, according to the group, the NGSS in Kansas violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits the government from “establishing” a state-sanctioned religion.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that COPE had no standing – the group could not demonstrate actual harm.
“COPE offers no facts to support the conclusion that the standards condemn any religion or send a message of approval,” the court concluded in its April 19 ruling. “And any fear of biased instruction is based on COPE’s predictions of school districts’ reactions to the standards — COPE’s attempt to transform a future injury into a present one.”
In a footnote, the 10th Circuit also noted that while it did not consider one of COPE’s main remedies — that teleological (purposeful) origin theories are taught alongside mainstream evolutionary science — the court would have found the remedy unconstitutional under a Supreme Court ruling 1987. decision. That case, Edwards against Aguillardnegated the requirement to teach creationism alongside evidence-based evolutionary science.