Kansas NGSS Case — Creationists Lose!

We’ve been waiting ten months for news about this one. The last time we posted about it was Kansas NGSS Case — State’s Appeal Brief. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

[We’ve been calling this] the Kansas NGSS Case. The correct name is in this link to the plaintiffs’ original complaint — it’s a 51-page pdf file: COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al. The lead plaintiff’s initials stand for their Orwellian name, “Citizens for Objective Public Education.” Their suit was an attempt to invalidate the state’s adoption of the evolution-friendly Next Generation Science Standards (the “NGSS”).

We always recommend that you take a look at “Exhibit A,” starting on page 37 of the complaint. It’s a letter that COPE (one of the plaintiffs) wrote back in June 2012, listing their objections to what were then the state’s proposed science standards. It’s an amazing catalog of creationist arguments — one of the best collections we’ve ever seen, and is likely to be the only reason this case is remembered.

At the trial court level, the state filed a motion to dismiss based on, among other things, sovereign immunity, the plaintiffs have no standing, the science standards (the NGSS) are secular, not religious, and therefore they don’t violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause or restrict the plaintiffs’ right of free speech. Then — wonder of wonders! — that motion was granted and the case was dismissed.

The creationists appealed, and we’ve been waiting all this time to find out what the appellate court will do. Today we have the answer. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Court rejects religious challenge to Kansas schools science standards. It appears in the Kansas City Star of Kansas City, Missouri, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri border. The bold font was added by us:

A federal appeals court has rejected a nonprofit group’s claim that science standards for Kansas public schools promote atheism. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver affirmed on Tuesday a lower court ruling that had dismissed the lawsuit brought by a nonprofit group calling itself Citizens for Objective Public Education. At issue in the lawsuit are guidelines adopted in 2013 by the Kansas Board of Education that treat evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts.

They don’t give us a link to the court’s opinion, but our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have been tracking the case and they have an archive of the pleadings here: COPE v. Kansas State BOE. M’god — they’ve got it! You can read the opinion here.

Okay, back to the news story:

The appeals court agreed with U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree that opponents of the standards had no standing to sue because they could not show an injury.

That makes sense. This is the last paragraph, and it’s a bit creepy:

Its decision notes the standards themselves recommend objective curricula and allows districts the option not to adopt the standards or to teach alternative origins theories.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! In Kansas, local school districts are free to teach creationism! Anyway, the creationists lost their case, so that’s good news. They always lose. How frustrating that must be.

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5 responses to “Kansas NGSS Case — Creationists Lose!

  1. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education have just posted about the news: A decision in the COPE appeal.

  2. michaelfugate

    Relevant section from the decision:

    In Edwards, the Court held that it is the parents’ right to direct the religious education of their children. 482 U.S. at 583-84. The Court noted that public schools must uphold the trust that the State will not use the classroom to “advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family,” id., and that families “condition their trust [of public schools] on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views,” id. at 584.[6] COPE argues that the Standards violate this trust by sending a message of religious endorsement to guide school districts; and by causing fear and anxiety that the students may have to opt-out of religiously biased classroom instruction. However, as noted supra, COPE does not offer any facts to support the conclusion that the Standards condemn any religion or send a message of endorsement. And any fear of biased instruction is premised on COPE’s predictions of school districts’ responses to the Standards—an attempt by COPE to recast a future injury as a present one. For reasons discussed infra, we reject this claim as well.

    6 Although we do not reach the merits, we note that COPE asks the court to implement a requirement identical to the one imposed by the statute in Edwards. COPE frames the materialism of evolutionary theory as a religious belief competing with COPE’s own teleological religion, and demands that if evolution is taught, teleological origins theories must also be taught. The Edwards Court expressly held such a requirement unconstitutional. 482 U.S. at 592.

  3. The appeals court agreed with U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree that opponents of the standards had no standing to sue because they could not show an injury.
    . . .
    Its decision notes the standards themselves recommend objective curricula and allows districts the option not to adopt the standards or to teach alternative origins theories.

    Now how can creationists object to that? They get to teach their loopy ideas, provided they can convince local school boards to authorize doing so.

    But the catch is, they don’t just want creationism taught in public schools. They want the teaching of evolution to be forbidden. They won’t be satisfied with anything less. And even banning evolution likely won’t be the end of it; fundamentalists have a whole laundry list of things they want taught their way or not at all.

  4. “A federal appeals court has rejected a nonprofit group’s claim that science standards for Kansas public schools promote atheism.”

    Study of the natural sciences such as geology, paleontology, astronomy or astrophysics probably does reduce a person’s ability to support a literal embrace of religious creation myths.

    Science IS a threat to the very core of that denomination’s or person’s worldview. Therefore, these bills won’t stop coming.

  5. If one’s concept of god is that of the nature gods, then one’s religion is threatened by an account for how things happen. Particularly when it shows the inadequacy of one’s supernatural account. That is, if there is no account of what happens, when and where, how and why, so that things turn out as they are, rather than any of the other possibilities.