A proposed bill in the Indiana Senate would allow creationism, or “creation science,” to be taught in public schools.
It would also require every public school classroom to display a poster or sign with the national motto, “In God We Trust,” as well as the U.S. and Indiana state flags.
Senate Bill 373 was written by state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, who has spent 30 years in the Indiana state legislature and has proposed similar bills throughout his career.
“I am a Christian man and I try to live out Christian faith,” Kruse said. “I would like to see more laws in Indiana that are favorable to traditional Christian values.”
Creationism was widely taught in public schools across the country prior to the 1987 Supreme Court decision Edwards v. Aguillard, which ruled the practice unconstitutional. The decision said it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment outlining the separation of church and state, among other reasons.
Kruse said he’s aware the bill would be challenged in court if it were passed into law. However, he said he thinks the new makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court might lead to a different decision.
The Center for Inquiry is a nonprofit organization that advocates for a secular, scientific society and works to oppose legislation that would incorporate religious beliefs into public policy.
The Center for Inquiry’s legal director, Nicholas Little, disagreed with Kruse and said while any decision can be overturned at any time by the Supreme Court, he doesn’t think it’s likely the court would overturn the 1987 Edwards decision.
“There’s no doubt whatsoever that we’re talking about religious doctrine,” Little said. ”You cannot teach religious doctrine in public school under the establishment clause.”
The Indiana branch of the Center for Inquiry, based in Indianapolis, will work to oppose the bill, Little said.
Carl Weinberg, an adjunct associate professor in IU’s history department, has spent years researching creationism. Based on his research, he said, he thinks creationists are driven by a desire to have power and control over society’s moral code.
“[Kruse]’s not only seeking to get creationism into the biology curriculum, but is looking to politically move young people’s thinking to the right,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg noted that “In God We Trust” became the national motto during the Cold War, when the country was focusing on distancing itself from “godless communism.” He said he thinks requiring the national motto and flags in classrooms would reflect efforts to promote “mindless patriotism” to young people, similarly to during the Cold War.
“I’m all about empowering students in the classroom and encouraging them to think for themselves,” Weinberg said. “But falsely implying that creationism and evolutionism have equal status does students a disservice.”
Robert Kunzman, a professor in the IU School of Education, agreed that teaching creationism to students as a scientific theory would send an inconsistent message to students about scientific theories and methodology, as “creation science” does not follow the rules and methods of science.
“If science is going to mean anything, we have to have certain procedures and rules about what constitutes science,” Kunzman said.