W.Va. Lawsuit Claims Evolution Is A ‘Religion’ That Violates Students’ Freedumbs (VIDEO)

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone puts a new twist on the religion and education debate. Meet Kenneth Smith, an angry dad from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, who’s concerned about his daughter’s future career as a veterinarian.

The Charleston Daily Mail reports Smith has filed a federal lawsuit against various education officials at the local, state and federal levels because — get this — evolution is a religion. Ergo, forcing his daughter to learn about evolution in school is a violation of her religious freedumbs. Since the U.S. Constitution calls for separation of church and state, religion and education don’t mix, this man claims.

Oh, and of course Smith is representing himself — probably because no lawyer would touch this case with a ten-foot pole:

Kenneth Smith, who is representing himself, filed the four-page federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia against the Jefferson County Board of Education, state Superintendent Michael Martirano, National Institute of Health director Francis Collins, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education.

Smith further claims that by making his daughter’s grades contingent on learning about evolution, her school is jeopardizing her ability to get into a good college and get her veterinarian degree:

“Their actions during the 2014-2015 school year affects my child’s future directly through the state grading system to enter college and the ability to earn economic security and a good job in her chosen veterinarian medical field of work, by being taught a faith base (evolutionary ideology) that just doesn’t exist and has no math to back it.”

That’s right: Smith claims evolution is “faith-based” ideology and accuses the school of illegally mixing religion and education, while hamstringing his daughter’s future career prospects with his toxic “faith-based” creationist ideology. Never mind that nobody would want someone who can’t pass a science course to go anywhere near their animals, nor that many say getting into a veterinarian college is even harder than getting into medical school…Smith wants to blame his daughter’s future career failure on the schools.

What education and training is required to become a veterinarian?

So what will Smith’s stubborn belief in creationism cost his daughter if she can’t muddle through her science classes and pretend to believe evolution happened? According to PayScale.Com, the average salary for a veterinarian is $72,000 per year. And what education and training is required to become a veterinarian? In addition to needing a license to practice in each state, the American Veterinarian Association explains:

The average veterinarian completes 4 1/2 years of undergraduate education, taking classes such as biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, math, animal science, and more…and that’s just to prepare them for veterinary school. Some veterinarians already have a Master’s degree or PhD before they enter veterinary school. Others may enter a dual DVM/MS or DVM/PhD program, and some go on after veterinary school to get additional degrees and/or specialty training.

Good luck passing all those rigorous science courses when you can’t even grasp the concept of evolution.

Nonetheless, Smith is so bound and determined to deny the reality of evolution, he wrote a book about it. Titled The True Origin of Man, (available on Amazon!) Smith’s creationist magnum opus claims to represent “the truth of man’s origins confirmed by D.N.A. mathematical and scientific facts.”

When religion and education conflict.

And while science teachers have long tried to get their creationist students to at least understand evolution as a “theory,” a former creationist explains on Slate why trying to mix religion and education often backfires.

One point of consensus exits among science education researchers: Religion affects how people understand evolution. “The role of religion is really robust,” said Josh Rosenau, a programs and policy director for the National Center for Science Education. “I have no question that a person’s view of their own religion shapes how that person is prepared to respond to questions about evolution.”

The article also explains how a study conducted in Alabama — a state notoriously hostile towards the “theory” of evolution — found that creationism definitely dampens students’ scientific literacy.

[Leslie] Rissler concluded that deeply religious students are less likely to either understand or accept evolution than are their less religious peers. “The more religious are less scientifically literate,” she said. “The data are clear on this. It’s just that people don’t like to hear it.”

Even more alarming, teaching creationism and evolution side-by-side — as many school systems do — is worse than teaching nothing about evolution at all.

Rissler also surmised that educators who teach both creationism and evolution “are doing more harm than teaching the students nothing.” Her data show that students who were never taught evolution—their teachers skipped it—performed better on tests of both knowledge and acceptance than those students who learned about both evolution and creationism in high school.

A similar evolution case got thrown out.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time someone took this unusual slant on the religion and education debate to claim that when schools teach evolution, they’re endorsing atheism. Never mind the fact that “atheism” is — by definition — not a religion, but rather the rejection of religion. Raw Story reports a federal judge in Topeka, Kansas threw out a similar case in 2013.

According to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree said that creationist pressure group Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE)’s lawsuit against the state of Kansas is without merit and dismissed it.

Secular Talk‘s Kyle Kulinsky brilliantly explains the case and the stupefying leaps of logic required to file in the first place.  And he starts out by aptly pointing out that whatever groups like COPE “typically call themselves, you can assume they’re in favor of the opposite.”

Here’s the video.

Here’s a PDF file, courtesy of the National Center for Science Education, so you can read the text from Smith’s ridiculous religion and education lawsuit for yourself.

It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. No worries, just click here to download the PDF file. 

Image: cc 2006 Latvian/Flickr (with alterations).