An Ohio school district considering a policy that would allow creationism to be taught in the classroom has sparked a debate over the separation of church and state.
The Springboro School Board in eastern Ohio discussed the addition of creationism to its curriculum at a Thursday night meeting with parents, students and teachers. The board previously threw out the proposal in 2011 after a public outcry.
Some parents and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio have asked the school board to abandon the plan. A letter sent to the board by the ACLU calls the measure a violation of the separation of church and state.
The school board says it plans to teach “controversial issues” in an unbiased manner to help students think critically and learn all sides of an issue.
Creationism is the belief that the earth and all its creatures were created by a monotheist deity about 6,000 years ago. The belief is contrary to evolution, which posits that all living organisms descended from a common gene pool, and the scientific theory of the Big Bang, which describes the development of the universe approximately 13.7 billion years ago (making the earth 4.54 billion years old).
The Springboro School Board’s proposal claims many “areas of study involve issues on which differing positions are held by individuals or groups” and that it was students to know all sides “fully and fairly.”
Staff attorney of the Ohio ACLU, Drew Dennis, said teaching creationism is unconstitutional and threat to religious freedom.
"Basically they would be teaching creationism to counteract the teaching of evolution," ACLU spokesman Nick Worner said Friday. "Anytime that you promote or teach the beliefs of one religion over all other religions or beliefs in a public school classroom, that's a problem."
The school board president, Kelly Kohls, proposed the teaching of creationism two years ago as a supplement to instruction. The board abandoned the plan after parents objected and possible legal action was threatened by the ACLU.
Thursday Kohls said they board wants to give teachers permission to discuss controversial topics in class. "There’s a lot of controversy over other issues, but these are kind of the big ones that we want to allow people to talk about it in the classroom," Kohls told WLWT.com.
"We want to make sure that all sides are being taught in a fair and balanced way and then, also, we want to encourage critical thinking," Jim Rigano, school board vice president, told WDTN.com. Rigano said the proposal was made in part because school officials do not want children indoctrinated by their teachers.