Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Genesis of a Lawsuit

Among all the hoo-ha about the opening of the Creation Museum in the wilds of Boone County, Kentucky this weekend, I have yet to see this simple point made:

The minute a public-school teacher takes his or her class on a field trip to the Christian House of Deception, we’ve got a lawsuit a-borning. Ever since the Supreme Court’s Edwards v. Aguillard decision in 1987, schools that are paid for with taxpayer cash have been forbidden to teach creationism as if it were science. As most of us know, this ban emboldened creationists to change the name of their unnatural history to “intelligent design.” But the non-distinct distinction between ID and creationism has not tended to hold up in the few cases that have reached the courts.

In any event, though, the Creation Museum doesn’t seem to be making a pretense of teaching intelligent design; its lessons are creationist, pure and simple. Ah, but they’re passed off as science, and that’s where the courts will be able to step in.

From what I’ve read and seen, the Creation Museum is putting a strong emphasis on its bogus science, advertising itself as, essentially, an alternative science attraction. So it would be the height of dishonesty for a public school teacher, principal, or school board member to justify a trip to this evangelical magic show as a study of “literature,” or “history,” or “comparative religion,”or any other educational endeavor besides the very science it pretends to be. That so-called “science,” as judges in several venues have found, is really fundamentalist propaganda.

Concerned parents, therefore, could certainly sue if a trip to the museum were an outing sponsored by their child’s public school. I think such parents might even be able to bring legal action if a public school official so much as suggested that students visit the place. Even initiating a discussion about it in the classroom—or the lunchroom, gym, or cafeteria — could well be deemed legally suspect. And don’t fool yourself: One of these things will happen. The museum’s in Kentucky, for crying out loud!

Now, Ken Ham and his institution would likely not be defendants in the case; the school board, principal, or offending teacher would. But Ham would then be stuck with the choice between throwing his full support behind the field trip to his museum, or repudiating it as an improper activity for public school children. The latter course seems unlikely if he wants the ignorati to cling to the illusion that his exhibits present honest-to-god (obviously not to anyone else) science.

Ideally, such a case would give Ken Ham, speaking on behalf of the poor, beleaguered Christian kids in the public schools, all the publicity he seeks. But in court, he’s bound to emerge as the ill-intentioned, know-nothing fraud that he is. With decent lawyering for the parents and enough stubbornness on the opposing school board’s side, Ham’s ham-handed brainwashing could well be exposed as fakery on a scale that would make P.T. Barnum envious.

Unfortunately, such a circus trial wouldn't lead to the closing of the museum, or the opening of the American mind. But it might give some of us hellbound secularists far more satisfaction than holding a vain protest in Daniel Boone’s own boonies.

2 comments:

Gerry L said...

Any word on how school districts in the area are responding to the hoopla surrounding the opening of this ... amusement park?

I would like to see them publish statements that field trips to the place would NOT be acceptable use of school time or resources. Period. Let families that their kids if that floats their boat, but no implied stamp of approval from the public school systems.

Emily said...

Lawrence Krauss made exactly that point in an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer, but it's nice to see it repeated in the blogosphere. I haven't seen it mentioned nearly enough.