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Court to Kansas group: ‘No, school science curriculum is not unconstitutional’

Thwarting a Kansas group comprised of parents and students that opposed the state’s adoption of a national science curriculum, a federal court has upheld a lower court’s ruling on a case involving the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Back in 2013, the Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), a religiously oriented group, sued to block the curriculum, claiming that the new standards constituted a form of “religious indoctrination.” According to COPE, NGSS’s failure to include a religious basis for the origins of life and the universe makes the curriculum unsuitable for the classroom.

COPE’s lawsuit hinged upon the notion that the scientific view promoted by the NGSS curriculum is tacitly anti-religious, thereby violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. By not mentioning God’s involvement in the beginning of mankind, COPE says, Kansas schools are instead advancing a non-religious standard, “establishing” a non-religion. The Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, however, rejected this claim.

“COPE does not offer any facts to support the conclusion that the Standards condemn any religion or send a message of endorsement,” the court concluded. “And any fear of biased instruction is premised on COPE’s predictions of school districts’ responses to the Standards — an attempt by COPE to recast a future injury as a present one.”

The federal court also noted that a previous Supreme Court decision doled out in 1987 in Edwards v. Aguillard eliminated the need to teach creationism in classrooms.

NGSS has already been implemented in 18 states (including Kansas), and draws support from numerous national organizations, including the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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