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W. Va. School Board Supports Evolution.

Members of the Kanawha County (W. Va.) School Board have voted 4-1 to reject a resolution intended to undercut evolution instruction in science classes.

On Dec. 16, the board rejected demands from a local Baptist minister and his allies that the study of evolution be curtailed in Kanawha County's schools. The Rev. Randy Wilson, pastor of Esta Baptist Church in Witcher Creek, told the board, "Jesus Christ said the truth will make you free. We're simply asking you to allow our children to hear the truth, not the lies of evolution."

The board listened to public comment on the matter for more than four hours. The Charleston Gazette reported that about 175 people packed the meeting room, some spilling into the hallway. About 60 percent spoke in favor of the anti-evolution policy.

"Evolution is a fraud," said Richard Carvell, a county resident. "It is a cult. It is a disgrace to teach in our schools. There's a scandal going on in the Kanawha County school system." Other speakers linked the theory of evolution to Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx. One speaker called Charles Darwin a "racist."

But several supporters of church-state separation were also vocal. "I don't want someone else teaching my child religion," said the Rev. Karl Rattan, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston. "That's my job as a parent. Creationism is not science. It is not based on science. It is based on faith."

The resolution, which would have allowed teachers to offer "theories for and against the theories of evolution," was introduced by board member Betty Jarvis. Jarvis acted at the request of Karl Priest, a math teacher at Andrew Jackson Middle School who opposes evolution. Priest attended the Dec. 16 meeting wearing an ape mask.

In the end, Jarvis was the only board member to vote for the resolution. She called it potentially the "most important" thing she has done during her time on the board. During the meeting, Jarvis said, "We can't allow our children to be indoctrinated and brainwashed by lies."

Americans United weighed in on the controversy in mid December. In a letter to the board, AU Litigation Counsel Ayesha Khan warned that any effort to introduce creationism into public school science classes could spark a lawsuit. "We will not hesitate to take legal action in the event that constitutional requirements are not respected," Khan wrote. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia also sent a warning letter to the board.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5VA
Date:Feb 1, 2000
Words:411
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