Religion has nothing to do with it?
Are critics of the state's new science standards asking the rest of the public to take a leap of faith?
Many of them said repeatedly during the tug-of-war leading up to the Feb. 19 Board of Education vote that their concerns were grounded in science and evidence, not religion and faith. Never mind that leading opponents included the Florida Baptist Convention; the Florida Family Policy Council, a group that supports Biblical family values; and Donna Callaway, the BOE member who publicly announced her opposition through the Florida Baptist Witness.
Now the same argument is being made about the "academic freedom" bills recently filed in the Florida Legislature by Sen. Ronda Storms (left), R-Brandon, and Rep. D. Alan Hays (right), R-Umatilla. The bill language says it does not "promote any religious position" and refers to the right of teachers to present "the full range of scientific views." It does not mention creationism, intelligent design, or any other faith-based theories.
But it's worth pointing out that both Storms and Hays are Baptist, and both make no bones about their strong religious backgrounds. Hays notes on his House website that he picked up the Christian Coalition Faith & Family Award in 2005 and 2006. And last month, Storms filed a bill (SB 2010) to create an "I Believe" license plate, which would feature a crucifix and send proceeds to Faith in Teaching, a group "dedicated to funding education in Florida's faith based community."
If Storms and Hays had a poster child for their bills, it might be David Brackin. The Orange County middle school teacher was one of 10 critics who addressed the BOE Feb. 19, and he told board members, "If I am to lead my students into true scientific inquiry I must be allowed to teach all the evidence including the cracks in and the weaknesses of evolution."
Brackin told The Gradebook yesterday that he was "chastised" years ago by an assistant principal, who told him he could not talk about religion in class. But Brackin said he never mentioned religion. Instead, he said, "I refuted evolution. I talked about the weaknesses in evolution."
Brackin said he now teaches at a school where the principal "believes in academic freedom." He said although he did not think it was relevant, he is an evangelical Christian. He also said he thinks intelligent design is as scientifically valid as evolution. "Neither one can be proven," he said. "Nobody was there."
- Ron Matus, state education reporter