According to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union, a controversial earmark to an appropriations bill, that would have provided federal funding for an organization that wishes public schools to teach that the earth was created by a sentient being, was withdrawn from the bill on Thursday.
The earmark was added to the Fiscal Year 2008 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill’s Committee Report. A total of 33 Civil Rights, Education, Science, and Religious groups opposed the earmark and made known their satisfaction that it had been withdrawn.
The earmark was added by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and proposed that $100,000 of federal funding should go to the Louisiana Family Forum. Vitter claimed that the grant would accomplish: “a plan to promote better science education.”
The civil rights, education, science, and religious groups were immediately up in arms over the proposed grant because of the Louisiana Family Forum’s stated mission. The forum’s mission is to: “persuasively present biblical principles in centers of influence.”
The groups claim that the Louisiana Family Forum has in the past been a passionate activist for the cause of teaching creationism in the classroom in public schools. The forum was reportedly instrumental in the Louisiana School Board’s past decision to allow teachers to point out alleged weaknesses in the theory of evolution in the hopes of highlighting the creationism versus evolution controversy.
Rights groups also claim that the Louisiana Family Forum consistently publishes intelligent design addendums designed for teachers to use in addition to public science school textbooks. The groups claim that these addendums substitute scientific explanations of natural phenomena such as fossils with biblical ones.
The groups pointed out that the Supreme Court has ruled that Creationism in any form can not be taught in public schools because: “the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere.”
Senior Lobbyist Terri Schroeder of the American Civil Liberties Union made these comments regarding the earmark: “James Madison, the principal author of the First Amendment, believed that even a ‘three-pence’ tax to fund religious education was a violation of freedom of religion. As soon as religion begins to intrude into our government and the publicly funded arena, the ideals and principles of both become compromised.”
Schroeder commented further: “For the federal government to allow such funding to take place would have not only been unconstitutional, but also a waste of tax payer money and a degradation of our school curriculum. The ACLU is relieved that Senator Vitter came to his senses and withdrew this misguided proposal.”