In 2013, the Kansas State Board of Education was sued for the unbelievable crime of promoting atheism by way of evolution. (It was hard to believe, in part, because it meant Kansas was teaching evolution. Incredible!)
The group that filed the lawsuit was Citizens for Objective Public Education, Inc. (COPE), and they did it because they believed the new science standards adopted by the Board of Education, which included the teaching of evolution, were endorsing a godless worldview:
The Complaint alleges that the Kansas Board’s adoption on June 11, 2013, of A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (the F&S) “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview” in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Because if you’re not teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design, you must automatically be pushing anti-Christian ideas…
Let’s be clear: The state standards by no means pushed atheism. They were teaching evidence-based reality. If that contradicts your religious views, that’s your problem.
At least a judge recognized how silly it all was. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree (who said in 2014 that a gay marriage ban in Kansas was unconstitutional) dismissed COPE’s lawsuit. Not because it was frivolous, but because they didn’t really show how the science standards affected them in any meaningful way. And if you were affected, then what right do you have to sue?
… Crabtree ruled Tuesday that a nonprofit group and individuals challenging the standards did not claim specific enough injuries to allow the case to go forward.
It’s not very often that you hear this, but the Kansas State Board of Education was on the right side of the science debate.
COPE didn’t just give up the fight, though. They filed an appeal.
And this week, thankfully, the appeals court upheld the original ruling:
… the Standards do not condemn any or all religions and do not target religious believers for disfavored treatment. And COPE offers only threadbare assertions that the Standards intend to promote a non-religious worldview. Thus, COPE’s allegations regarding adoption amount to psychological consequences produced by observation of conduct with which it disagrees.
COPE argues it suffered three injuries sufficient to support standing. It contends first that the adoption of the standards created an actual injury both by adopting a religious symbol and by breaching parents’ trust in the Kansas school system. It also argues that future injury is imminent because the standards compel Kansas schools to teach objectionable material. Finally, it alleges that two appellants have standing as taxpayers who object to their tax dollars being used for religious (or anti-religious) purposes. Each of COPE’s arguments fails.
Ultimately, the judges said the standards were indeed objective and districts had the right to reject them altogether. But on their own, the standards weren’t promoting atheism.