The Louisville Area Christian Educator Support (LACES) organization in Kentucky hosted a curious event in an auditorium on May 9th. The purpose of the event was to serve as a platform for the LACES leaders to teach educators ways of circumventing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The meeting was held at The Gheens Academy, a?public school in Louisville, with the purpose of instructing teachers how their careers placed them in the “greatest mission field” to expose children to the lessons of Christ.
Notable attendees on behalf of LACES were an area high school principal, Bryce Hibbard, and Assistant Superintendent of Academic Achievement Kirk Lattimore. Although these men are in positions of authority within the hosting district, the Jefferson County School District itself did not sanction the event. Hibbard spoke of his time as a biology teacher; he served witness to his religion during class time in his own “sneaky” way. The students in his class would make presentations on the idea of Creationism.
In an odd attempt at reverse entrapment, attendees were given bracelets with the word “THIRD” written on them. Hibbard offered this as an example of a legal way of opening conversations about the role of Jesus, others, and the individual. ?Another speaker named Roger Dillon, who is apparently not familiar with a landmark 2005 case (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District),?stated that “it is not true that in science classes you’re not allowed to talk about creation or intelligent design.”
The presiding judge in?Kitzmiller,?conservative Judge John E. Jones III, ruled that:
“Intelligent Design is not science, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious?antecedents.”
And there is, in fact, a statute in Kentucky law (KRS 158.177) that states that creation as according to the Bible can be discussed in a classroom. The statute allows such conversation so long as the teachers do not stress a specific religious denomination and that the statute is not to be “construed as being adverse to any decision which has been rendered by any court of competent jurisdiction.?
Jefferson County Public School District Assistant Superintendent Lattimore lamented the plight of Christians working in public service by asking the crowd “what about ourselves?” in response to obstacles of spreading the word of God in the classroom. However, his boss, JCPS?Superintendent Donna Hargens, was not in agreement. In an email after the meeting to principals within the district she wrote:
“Creationism and Intelligent Design are not part of the state science curriculum standards and are not taught.”
The JCPSD further distanced themselves from the LACES organization by releasing a statement through spokesman Ben Jackey who said
“JCPS educators are instructed to adhere to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in order to ensure our students graduate college and are career ready. Creationism and Intelligent Design are not part of the core standards.”
While the creationists by and large continue to lose ground getting their beliefs presented as fact, the issue, unfortunately, is still an issue. Even though cases such as?Bishop v. Aronov, found that a classroom was not an open forum for “intelligent-design” debate on a college university, conservative groups such as LACES are still alive and well searching for any way around the wall that separates church and state.