Thursday, 12 May 2011

New campaign launches after school invites creationist preacher to revision day

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As part of new campaign, Creationism In Schools Isn't Science (CrISIS), launched with the backing of the British Centre for Science Education, the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and the National Secular Society, a group of leading scientists, educators and campaigners have today written to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, urging him to clarify government guidelines preventing the teaching of creationism as science in British Schools.

The launch of CrISIS was prompted by Laura Horner, a parent of children at St Peter's Church of England School in Exeter. In March, Philip Bell, an evangelical preacher who runs the UK arm of the young-earth creationist organisation Creation Ministries International, was invited by St Peters to lecture at a revision day for GCSE RE pupils. When Horner complained to the school, she received a letter which described modern biology as "evolutionism" and Bell as a “scientist” who “presented arguments based on scientific theory for his case".

Speaking about the launch of CrISIS, Horner said:
"I was appalled to find out that my children had been exposed to this dangerous nonsense and I am determined that the Secretary of State for Education should urgently plug the loophole that allows creationists to do this.
What has happened in Exeter has serious implications for all existing state schools, but also because groups of creationists are known to be drawing up applications to run Free Schools, which would remove many checks and balances."
In the letter to Gove, the signatories, who include leading scientists like Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones and Simon Singh, as well as both religious and secular campaigners, call on the government to place clearer restrictions on the use of creationist speakers and learning materials in schools:
"Recently, the Department of Education has stated that you are ‘crystal clear’ that creationism has no scientific validity and should not be taught as science. Yet here we have a school presenting Creationism as a valid scientific position, and justifying this by reference to Religious Education. These events show that creationists are now openly using the RE syllabus to advance their claim to be offering a valid scientific alternative to established knowledge, from within the State funded school system.

Therefore, we believe that the guidelines need clarifying to prevent Creationism being presented as a valid scientific theory both in lesson time and outside of it in state funded schools, as we are aware that this is also happening in clubs in and out of school time. Given the nature of the internet, we also believe that the Guidance should state that websites which promote creationism as a valid scientific theory, like other unsuitable resources, should not be used. We believe this is necessary to protect the plain intent of the current Guidelines.

In addition, you will shortly have to deal with applications for Free School status from Everyday Champions Church (ECC), the Christian Schools Trust and for Academy status for St Peter’s among many others. Recent public statements from ECC and its associates suggest, if anything, an even more anti-scientific approach in its preferred teaching. This would suggest that the current Guidelines will need modification to reflect emerging practice."
A petition urging the government to clarify the guidelines has been launched, which you can add your name to here. There is a also a Facebook group. The full text of the letter sent to Gove can be seen below.

CrISIS Letter to Gove                                                                                                   
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