Creationists Take It to Court in Texas

The Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research Graduate School has filed its long-threatened lawsuit against Texas’ commissioner of higher education, Raymund Paredes, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Last year the coordinating board rejected the ICR’s application to offer master’s of science education degrees in Texas. The board said the ICR — which argues that the concept of biblical creation is backed by science while evolution is not — failed to meet required academic standards. (Well, yeah.)

According to the complaint (available here), the ICR is charging that the coordinating board Dr. Paredes are working to

perpetrate viewpoint discrimination and censorship, inter alia, in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment (and in violation of other laws), especially as the 14th Amendment is recognized as applying to the constitutional rights of free speech (including academic speech and religious speech), freedom of the press (including freedom from “prior restraint” censorship of academic speech associated with freedom of the press), freedom from viewpoint discrimination (as well as content discrimination), free exercise of religion, freedom of association, freedom from hositility toward religious viewpoints), freedom from arbitrary and abusive governmental discrretion, freedom from anti-accommodational evolution-only-science enforcement policy practices, freedom from unequal protection (especially in academic “evolution-only-science-credentialing” politics that act like a government-controlled “titles of nobility” monopoly scheme in postsecondary Science Education), and reputation injuries, etc.

You can read the whole complaint for yourself, but here are some excerpts:

ICRGS [Institute for Creation Research Graduate School], which conspicuously affirms its Biblical creationist viewpoint as an institutional distinctive, should not be required to academically “shut its mouth” or “go to the back of the [postsecondary science education] bus” just because it affirms the truth of Genesis 1:1, or because ICRGS corroborates the Biblical account of the Genesis Flood (the historicity of which as been repeatedly corroborated).

(A)lthough ICRGS teaches typical topics of evolutionary science (albeit analyzed in comparison with creationist thinking, analyzing empirical science evidence by forensic science principles), ICRGS has itself deceived no prospective students or employers into thinking that ICRGS is a proponent of evolutionary science, because ICRGS publicly and conspicuously identifies itself as the creation science-promoting “Institute for Creation Research” (and not as the “Institute for Evolution Research”).

(D)efendants revealingly and religiously relied (in part) on the non-empirical idea of a cosmic “Big Bang” which supposedly exploded some 14,000,000,000 years ago, — while simultaneously conceding that “science has no answer to the question of how life on earth began or how [as Commissioner Paredes religiously assumed on 4-23-2008] the Big Bang was initiated some 14 billion years ago.”

As a matter of institutional viewpoint, ICRGS has sincerely taught its students that the theory of evolution, and the proposed notion of billon-of-years-old “geologic time,” is “science falsely so-called.” See, accord, 1st Timothy 6:20. . . . This Bible-informed viewpoint is not an exotic or recently invented tenet which ICRGS affirms. ICRGS simply agrees with, and thus adopts, the Bible-transmitted view of the apostle Paul, who wrote that the natural creation so effectively displays proof of God’s creatorship that anyone who rejects that evidence is “without excuse.”

The historic fact that the triune God of the Bible, acting through Christ, created the cosmos slightly more than 6,000 years ago, is a religious belief. That religious belief is a sincerely-held institutional viewpoint of ICRGS, qualifying how ICRGS teaches science and science education.

ICR is defending its civil rights to teach a non-atheistic view of “science.”

The ICR complaint asks, among other things, that the court declare a private educational institution is exempt from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board oversight if the organization accepts no state funding, is a not-for-profit entity, and “is not operated as a degree mill.”

As an aside, check out the header at the top of the ICR’s home page today: “Does Twitter Twiddle with Morality?”

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20 Comments

  1. Posted April 25, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    IMO the THECB had the right to deny certification of the ICR Graduate School program, and such certification is not all that important anyway because it is just temporary and is probably not recognized in many places outside Texas. However, ICR also claimed that THECB has tried to (1) prevent ICR from advertising the degree as a “Master of Science in Science Education” degree and (2) prevent ICR from enrolling students from Texas if the degree is so advertised, and the courts may have already ruled in the ICR’s favor in regard to those claims. Timothy Sandefur says on his Freespace blog,

    ICR argues, among other things, that Chapter 61 of the Texas Education Code is unconstitutional. That chapter establishes the THECB and gives it the authority to regulate the issuing of “degrees” as that term is statutorily defined. No person or institution, whether public or private, may issue a degree—that is, a document that includes words like “Bachelor’s Degre” (sic) —without obtaining state permission first.

    Now, such a law does have the potential to violate First Amendment rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion. For government to require its permission before you can issue a piece of paper with a word on it would be unconstitutional. And in HEB Ministries, Inc. v. Texas Higher Education Board, 235 S.W.3d 627 (Tex. 2007), the Texas Supreme Court did strike down a portion of that statute, holding that it was unconstitutional for the state to restrict the use of words like “seminary.” . . . .

    This is not an easy issue. On the one hand, the state can limit the use of certain descriptions and claims of quality in order to prevent fraud and protect consumers. But on the other hand, too severe a restriction can violate freedom of expression and other freedoms. One thinks of the recent lawsuits over restricting the use of the words “interior designer,” for instance. There is a reasonable argument to be made that the state has no appropriate role in restricting the use of a document called a “masters’ degree,” and I tend to believe that we should err on the side of freedom, and let degree mills issue their worthless degrees if they want. It’s up to us to point out their worthlessness. But it is also true that if a person purports to know a skill and another person relies on that and is injured, the state ought to intercede to protect innocent persons. You can’t claim that rules against incompetence are a form of “viewpoint discrimination”!
    http://sandefur.typepad.com/freespace/2009/04/icr-lawsuit-against-texas-higher-education-coordinating-board.html#more

    I don’t see any deception about this being a creationist degree — the school is named “Institute for Creation Research Graduate School.”

    A related article is on the Volokh Conspiracy blog –
    http://volokh.com/posts/1240530940.shtml

    Anyway, the complaint is very poorly written and does not clearly state the causes of action. The complaint is much too long and should have been just a few pages.

  2. Posted April 22, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Pineyman Says:
    –TRACS is recognized by the DoE as a christian accediting service only. That is a very big distinction. Even the TRACS website makes that absolutely clear. if you do not accept fundamentalist theology you will not be accedited by them.–

    That does not explain why ICR withdrew from TRACS accreditation when moving from California to Texas.

    TRACS accreditation apparently at least makes the students of ICR’s graduate school eligible for federal financial assistance programs.

  3. Pineyman
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    LF –

    TRACS is recognized by the DoE as a christian accediting service only. That is a very big distinction. Even the TRACS website makes that absolutely clear. if you do not accept fundamentalist theology you will not be accedited by them. By saying ICR is accedited by TRACS does not tell the whole story.

  4. Posted April 22, 2009 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Instead of clarifying things, Steven Schafersman only added to the confusion.

    Steven Schafersman Says (April 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm) –
    –LF is incorrect about THECB. The agency does not provide accreditation. It offers temporary certification.

    The ICR requested a Texas Certificate of Authority from the THECB as a temporary two-year license to offer their graduate degree program in Texas while it sought formal accreditation from an established accrediting association.–

    Then why is ICR even suing THECB, when THECB cannot provide a permanent or long-term solution to the ICR Graduate School’s need for regular accreditation?

    And who outside of Texas accepts this THECB certification?

    –I doubt it could actually achieve accreditation from a legitimate association in Texas, so I suspect ICR was gong to keep renewing its Texas certificate while it would try to get the law changed by legislation.–

    Now that is really a longshot strategy, to put it mildly. The chances of getting special legislation of the kind needed are extremely poor. And why should THECB keep renewing a certificate that is intended to be just a stopgap that gives an institution time to obtain regular accreditation?

    –Unlike California, Texas does not recognize TRACS, which accredits Fundamentalist Christian schools. ICR gave up its TRACS accreditation in November 2007 before it moved to Texas, so I don’t understand why it can keep offering its graduate degree program anywhere in the US.–

    Exactly why did ICR give up TRACS accreditation? TRACS accreditation is much better than nothing. As I noted above, TRACS is a national accrediting agency that is recognized by the US Dept. of Education, which says,

    accreditation by a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency enables the institutions it accredits to establish eligibility to participate in the Federal student financial assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.
    http://www.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg3.html

    –As for the Chris Comer case, it is not over yet.–

    Has she filed an appeal yet? Her 30-day window for appeal expires at the end of the month, so time is running out.

    She has a very weak case. The TEA’s neutrality policy towards issues of upcoming SBOE hearings was not established for the purpose of promoting religion — any promotion of religion would at most be an incidental result of the policy. Comer arrogantly decided on her own to make an exception to the neutrality policy. Constitutional issues are discussed at the SBOE hearings and are entitled to the same TEA policy of neutrality as other issues. The issue of the constitutionality of teaching creationism is especially sensitive because Darwinists have been claiming that the terms “intelligent design,” “strengths and weaknesses,” “analyze and evaluate,” “all sides,” “theory,” etc. are “code words” for teaching creationism.

    Steven Schafersman Says (April 21, 2009 at 6:39 pm) —
    –Tim Sandefur has a much longer and more detailed analysis of the ICR lawsuit than his brief Panda’s Thumb note.–

    Even Sandefur starts to hedge in the article on his Freespace blog:

    This is not an easy issue. On the one hand, the state can limit the use of certain descriptions and claims of quality in order to prevent fraud and protect consumers. But on the other hand, too severe a restriction can violate freedom of expression and other freedoms.
    http://sandefur.typepad.com/freespace/2009/04/icr-lawsuit-against-texas-higher-education-coordinating-board.html

  5. James F
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ll echo what Rocket Mike says about Baumgardner and Sanford, and add that these are brilliant, accomplished men, arguably the best minds associated with the ICR, but they hold views on evolution and the age of the Earth that utterly contradict scientific evidence, and require the suspension of basic properties of physics, chemistry, and biology. They do this not because of the evidence (while both have published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, neither of them has provided evidence for a young Earth or to refute evolution, nor have any of their colleagues), but because they are trying to justify a literal reading of the Bible, and they make truly wild speculations trying to do so. Furthermore, the real problem is not their personal beliefs, but that they are engaged in an effort to misrepresent their beliefs as science (Sanford, for example, testified at the Kansas evolution hearings), which is tantamount to academic fraud.

  6. Posted April 21, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Tim Sandefur has a much longer and more detailed analysis of the ICR lawsuit than his brief Panda’s Thumb note. Check it out at
    http://sandefur.typepad.com/freespace/2009/04/icr-lawsuit-against-texas-higher-education-coordinating-board.html

  7. Posted April 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I have some information about LF’s favorite Bible verse at http://www.texscience.org/releases/icr/ICR-lawsuit-analysis-2009April20.htm

    LF is incorrect about THECB. The agency does not provide accreditation. It offers temporary certification.

    The ICR requested a Texas Certificate of Authority from the THECB as a temporary two-year license to offer their graduate degree program in Texas while it sought formal accreditation from an established accrediting association. I doubt it could actually achieve accreditation from a legitimate association in Texas, so I suspect ICR was gong to keep renewing its Texas certificate while it would try to get the law changed by legislation. Unlike California, Texas does not recognize TRACS, which accredits Fundamentalist Christian schools. ICR gave up its TRACS accreditation in November 2007 before it moved to Texas, so I don’t understand why it can keep offering its graduate degree program anywhere in the US. Readers should refer to my analysis of the controversy at http://www.texscience.org/reviews/icr-thecb-certification.htm, which is much longer and more complete than Tim Sandefur’s, although he is certainly the expert on TRACS.

    As for the Chris Comer case, it is not over yet.

  8. Posted April 21, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    How many scientific breakthroughs can we attribute to Creationism since the inception of ICR? How many breakthroughs can we attribute to modern evolution in the same time period? One way to fully appreciate the disparity is to go to a website like ScienceDaily on a regular basis. It has articles that are user friendly and understandable by most high school graduates. You will find no ideology there, just easy-to-read science.

    Baumgardner and Sanford are both well degreed in scientific fields, but I see no evidence that their Creationist beliefs have helped their scientific endeavors. Some people seem to function satisfactorily in their professions despite some of the more extreme personal beliefs. (I don’t understand the reference to degrees from a little bible church.)

  9. Posted April 21, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    The complaint is much too long and repetitive and does not appear to be in proper format, i.e., it is single-spaced instead of double-spaced and is not on “pleading paper” — i.e., the paper with numbers along the left margin. The pleading-paper format may be less popular with the electronic filing of documents that has become common — I don’t know. I presume that the purpose of the line numbering is to enable pin-pointing of the locations of citations.

    I searched the complaint for something that I could consider to be a valid cause of action, and I found this on page 12:

    In particular, ICRGS has been told by representatives of THECB (i.e., by the Commissioner, individually, and/or via his representatives, under color of state law), that its Texas-based publication, ACTS & FACTS, may not institutionally advertize ICRGS’s “Master of Science in Science Education” program unto Texas residents, if the advertisement indicates any willingness (on ICRGS’s part) to admit Texas residents into its M.S. program, even though ICRGS’s M.S. program has been (and continues to be) offered under California state law via an online (interstate telecommunications-based) format.

    If THECB is trying to prevent ICRGS from (1) advertising its degree program as a “Master of Science in Science Education” program and/or (2) prevent Texas residents from enrolling in the program, then IMO ICR has a valid complaint.

    IMO the charge that THECB merely rubber-stamped the recommendation of a committee is also a valid complaint.

    Timothy Sandefur claims that when ICRGS was in California, ICRGS was accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, abbreviated TRACS, but that when ICR moved to Texas, it withdrew from that national accreditation because accreditation by Texas was expected — see
    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/04/icr-lawsuit-aga.html

    TRACS (Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools) accreditation is recognized by the US Dept. of Education — see
    http://www.elearners.com/resources/agencies.asp

    ICRGS is not in TRACS’ list of accredited institutions and candidates for TRACS accreditation –
    http://www.tracs.org/member.htm#i

    Sandefur claims that ICRGS withdrew from TRACS accreditation because Texas accreditation was “expected,” but that does not seem to be a good enough reason. A good reason to keep TRACS accreditation is that this accreditation is recognized by the US DOEd whereas THECB accreditation is apparently not, because as I noted in my previous comment, the US DOEd says that the only state-government accrediting agencies it recognizes are in the fields of vocational and nursing education.

    What are the relative advantages of TRACS accreditation and THECB accreditation? For example, how do these accreditations affect student eligibility for federal or state loans and/or grants? There are a lot of questions that are not being answered here.

    You Darwinists have been wrong before about pending court cases. You were wrong about Chris Comer’s wrongful termination suit against the Texas Education Agency and you were wrong about Yoko Ono’s “Imagine” copyright infringement suit against the producers of “Expelled.”

  10. Mrs. Scott
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    John R. Baumgardner is a geophysicist his degree is from a little bible church – University of California at Los Angeles

    John C. Sanford is a geneticist from another little bible church – University of Wisconsin-Madison

  11. eoAustin
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I can only imagine the “value” of a science degree from this institution of fantasy learning. One of my favorite times of the day is reading the daily news on these brainwashed delusional cult followers. It is highly entertaining!

  12. J.R.
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I’d sure like to see the science related nobel prize winners too. If they are not biologists or geologists, they can’t really be taken as credible in this discussion on evolution or the age of the earth.

  13. J.R.
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand why people take a first century whacko like Paul seriously, especially in regards to science. These religous right morons are slowly becoming engulfed by the seas of reason. Their all but flickering flame of hope will eventually be fully extinguished as the average person will learn and understand the truth concerning their existence.

  14. Geek Goddess
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Reality, no one is ‘afraid’ of a so-called scientist from ICR.

    I am afraid for the future of my COUNTRY is they are allowed to spread their claptrap, afraid that the US will become scientifically illiterate and fall behind in medicine and other sciences. I’d like to know, however, what science-related Nobel prize someone from ICR has been awarded.

  15. Posted April 21, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    People are afraid of real accredited scientist from ICR, I don’t get it.
    These guys have won nobel prizes, invented many things like the gene gun, and they are still being silenced.
    they have offered science degrees for 27 years.
    people are BLIND to still believe they came from nothing- rocks-fish- monkeys =to humans.
    We are a stupid people.

  16. Posted April 21, 2009 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    No one has ever answered my question as to why a Texas general higher-education accreditation agency even exists — college accreditation is normally regional or national (with some narrow exceptions). One reference says,

    Why is College Accreditation Important? What Type of Accreditation Should I Look For?
    There are several reasons accreditation is important besides ensurance of quality and adherence to academic standards. Accreditation determines a school’s eligibility for participation in federal (Title IV) and state financial aid programs. Proper accreditation is also important for the acceptance and transfer of college credit, and is a prerequisite for many graduate programs.

    The most recognized and accepted type of accreditation in the United States is regional accreditation. Generally, college credits or degrees received at a regionally accredited institution are accepted by other regionally accredited colleges or universities (non-regionally accredited programs are not as accepted). However, this acceptance is not guaranteed; it remains with each institution to establish its own policies based on the determination that the credits accepted meet educational objectives comparable to their own programs.

    What Are the Regional Accreditation Agencies?
    There are six geographic regions of the United States with an agency that accredits college and university higher education programs:

    http://www.back2college.com/library/accreditfaq.htm

    Note: IMO in some professional fields, e.g., engineering and law, national accreditation by a specialized agency in the profession is more important than regional general accreditation — though I presume that institutions that get national professional accreditation are likely to also have regional general accreditation.

    Here are lists of (1) regional agencies for accrediting colleges and universities and (2) national accreditation agencies for different occupational programs and specialized fields of study:
    http://www.elearners.com/resources/agencies.asp

    The only kinds of state-level accreditation agencies recognized by the US Dept. of Education are for vocational and nursing education —

    The U.S. Secretary of Education also recognizes State agencies for the approval of public postsecondary vocational education and State agencies for the approval of nurse education.
    http://www.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation.html#Overview

    The complaint says,

    ICRGS has sincerely taught its students that the theory of evolution, and the proposed notion of billon-of-years-old “geologic time,” is “science falsely so-called.” See, accord, 1st Timothy 6:20

    1 Timothy 6:20 is one of my favorite bible verses. It is stated in different ways, but I like the way it is stated by the Creation Science Association for Mid-America:

    “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so-called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.” I Timothy 6:20-21

    LOL

  17. Charles
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Guys. I gotta tell you. If the Religious Right has really lost the so-called culture wars, as some have said, they seem intent on going out in a supernova of stupidity.

  18. bjedwards
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure this isn’t a Monty Python skit?

  19. Coragyps
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    “Reputation injuries?” To ICR? Something is amiss here……

  20. James F
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    They’re not teaching science, they’re rejecting it.

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