First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 1, No. 1, February 2000
The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United
AU Opposing Legislation for Textbook Disclaimers
Oklahoma Americans United is monitoring bills and amendments introduced at the state legislature for language that would authorize the State Textbook Committee to add evolution disclaimers to public school textbooks. HB 1876 introduced by Rep. Jim Reese on Dec. 27 is an example of such legislation.
Americans United opposes the religiously based effort by the Textbook Committee to require publishers to include an anti-evolution disclaimer in biology texts. We are delivering petitions with more than 1500 signatures opposing the disclaimer to Pamela Smith-Umsted, chair of the Textbook Committee, to Penny Williams, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and to Larry Roberts, chair of the House Education Committee.
Recently, Attorney General Drew Edmondson ruled that the Textbook Committee lacked authorization to add disclaimers to public school textbooks. Edmondson also ruled that the Textbook Committee willfully violated the Open Meeting Act because the agenda for the Nov. 4 meeting (the day the disclaimer was adopted) failed to disclose that a disclaimer was being considered. He said, “The agenda had the effect of misleading the public as to matters to be taken up at the meeting.”
Americans United anticipates that Religious Right activists will work to pass House Bill 1876 and/or other amendments that would authorize the state’s Gubernatorially appointed Textbook Committee to add evolution disclaimers to public school textbooks. Americans United opposes such disclaimers on constitutional grounds and could challenge them in court, if necessary.
In a Nov. 11 letter written to Secretary of Education Floyd Coppedge, National AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn wrote, “I am writing today to let you know that this action raises serious constitutional concerns and that failure to reverse it could result in a lawsuit.”
“Christians have different views on the validity of creationism and how the Bible ought to be interpreted,” continued Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister. “It would be inappropriate and illegal for the public school system to alter its curriculum to appease adherents of one segment of Christianity.”
Persons interested in being alerted about legislation that is being introduced to extend the powers of the Textbook Committee should contact us by phone or e-mail (See bottom of page). Send us your name, phone, fax and/or e-mail address and ask to be added to our alert list.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
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