Creation and First Amendment Rights
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
Early in 1992, ICR won a stunning victory in Federal Court. The state of California had attempted to close the ICR Graduate School, branding those who believed in creation as non-scientists regardless of their scientific credentials and accomplishments. But, by God's grace and with His help, we eventually won three court battles reestablishing Christian/creationist education on a strong legal foundation.
Today many Christian schools and even attorneys are unaware of this precedent-setting ruling and its benefits for all Christian schools. Thus, the time seems right for a rehearsal of the events and details of the ruling of this important case.
The ICR Graduate School was founded in 1981 and given official state "approval" to operate in July. As it grew in size and matured in quality it pursued "accreditation" from the Transnational Association of Christian Schools. Its influence through publications, debates, and research was widening. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us various doctrinaire anti-creationists (i.e., anti-Christian also) launched an international campaign to stifle the Institute and its Graduate School, viewed by Isaac Asimov as "public enemy number one." Rightly assuming that a strong creation movement gives "credibility" to Christianity and dangerously weakens evolutionist control over America's worldview they stacked the files of the Department of Public Instruction in Sacramento with what one state employee called a "two-foot thick stack of outrage" against us. Chief perpetrator was Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bill Honig, darling of the teacher unions and political left in general.
At this same time, Honig was recruiting prominent evolutionists to produce California's new "science framework" for teaching science in the public schools. This document, aggressively integrated evolution throughout the entire curriculum and has led to similar documents across the country. It led to the uproar in Kansas in 1999, for instance, and is the basis for the current argument in Ohio. A masterpiece of propaganda and deceit it has done incalculable harm. A major offensive against Christianity was underway and they felt ICR, with its bevy of strong arguments and qualified spokesmen, had to be silenced.
In August of 1988 a team of scientists arrived at ICR to evaluate our application for the state's newly mandated "re-approval." Even though the team was predominantly evolutionist, including one outspoken evolutionist who had asked to be on the team even though he had contributed to the "two-foot stack" mentioned above, they voted 3 to 2 in favor of re-approval. Two months later Honig pressured one member to change his vote and announced to the press that we had been denied by a 3 to 2 vote. Closure loomed! Honig demanded that we take all creation teaching out of our classrooms. But, we are a private Christian school which had never taken one dime of public money. How could they do this?
In an attempt to survive without a lawsuit, we bent as far as we could but refused to buckle. Honig sent another team in August of 1989 to "verify" that creation was no longer a part of our curriculum. A team of five investigators was hand-chosen, four of whom were nationally known anti-creationists. They were accompanied by a state lawyer and two anti-creation education bureaucrats, one of whom was well known in humanist circles. Needless to say they voted 4 to 1 and issued, in their words, "the death penalty" on ICR's Graduate School.
Coincidentally, ICR's pursuit of full accreditation through TRACS was successful in February of 1990. The TRACS team, fully aware of state scrutiny of ICR, was extremely rigorous in their evaluation, and found ICR's teaching of the highest caliber. Obviously, the problem with the state was of perspective, not of quality. The state was not merely withdrawing our accreditation, they were denying our right to exist regardless of quality and were beginning to squeeze other Christian schools in the state also. Perhaps they expected us to simply accept this ruling and close, but in May of 1990, after every other avenue was exhausted, we filed a lawsuit in Federal Court claiming abridgement of our religious freedom, freedom of speech, academic freedom, and civil rights. Soon similar suits were filed in State District Court and Administrative Law Court, dealing with violation of the State Law and its Education Code, citing numerous improper actions and unprecedented and perhaps illegal "dirty tricks" on the part of the state administrators and lawyers.
Motions to dismiss the case were rejected by each judge in each case, and ICR proceeded to depose employees of the Education Department, visiting committee members, and intervening advocates. Our case, which seemed so strong, was buttressed by documentation of wrong doing and bigotry on the part of the state. Each appearance before the Court was ruled in ICR's favor and soon our approval had been reinstated and the negative reports thrown out. All that remained was the Federal lawsuit, testing whether or not a state regulatory body can require a private school to hold a particular state-mandated philosophy. Sensing great defeat and embarrassing public disclosure, the state attorney offered to settle out of court. We refused. We insisted on a formal "declarative judgment" which would have national application and strong precedent. A wonderfully deep and wide ruling resulted which stands as firm testament to God's sovereign power and His gracious answer to prayer.
The ruling is reproduced below. However, let me call your attention to a few points in particular.
Point C: Allows any private school to design its curriculum and course content as it desires.
Point E: A private school may specify statements of belief and purpose and use them as a guideline for hiring faculty and accepting students.
Point F: Specifically reaffirms that First Amendment rights extend to Christian schools.
Point G: Private schools may teach creation as correct. Also required is education in evolution. This was at Honig's insistence, but it would be irresponsible for a school not to teach about this dominant view of scientists. (They also should teach why it is not correct!)
Point H: Extends the ruling to private K-12 schools and home schools.
These statements, while they do reflect some give and take typical of court actions, nevertheless provide powerful protection for all schools. The Lord powerfully intervened on behalf of all Christian education. Throughout the process we had prayed that these enemies of the cross would themselves fall into the pit they had dug for us (Proverbs 28:10). It happened just that way.
Civil No. 90-0483-B (M)
DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT BY STIPULATION
Institute for Creation Research Graduate School, et al., -vs.- Honig, et al.
The parties having stipulated that the Court may enter judgement in this matter,
IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED THAT:
1. A declaratory judgement shall issue from this Court. The judgement declares the following:
A. That defendants acknowledged that the 1989 Visiting Committee report should be rescinded and should have no force and effect, and that defendants will recommend to the Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education that it should withdraw by physical removal or notation the 1989 Visiting Committee report and that the 1988 Visiting Committee report that was prepared or accepted after Dr. Kovach decided to change his recommendation from approval to denial.
B. That defendants acknowledge that the August 1988 Visiting Committee report
should be considered the final official report concerning the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School. Defendants will recommend to the Council for private Postsecondary and Vocational Education that the August 1988 Visiting Committee report favorable to the approval of ICRGS should be the last official document in the official school file.
C. That defendants acknowledge that a private postsecondary educational institution that meets the statutory standards and its implementing regulations can be approved as a degree granting institution. Except as provided by statute and implementing regulations, an institution may teach any curriculum or include any material in a course's content without being penalized.
D. That defendant Louis ("Bill") Honig agrees that until his present term of office expires on January 20, 1995, that he and his designee to the Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education will abstain from voting on ICRGS's application for approval to grant science degrees.
E. That defendants acknowledge that a private postsecondary educational institution may specify a statement of belief and a statement of purpose for both faculty and students that complies with a national accrediting association recognized by the United States Department of Education.
F. That defendants acknowledge that a private postsecondary educational institution has First Amendment rights of free speech, religious freedom, and academic freedom. Defendants further acknowledge that a private postsecondary educational institution's First Amendment rights must be considered during the institution's approval review.
G. That defendants acknowledge that a private postsecondary educational institution may teach the creation model as being correct provided that the institution also teaches evolution.
H. That defendants acknowledge that a private K-12 school is not within the jurisdiction of the State Department of Education for the purpose of approval of courses or course content or issuance of regulations, except as provided by law.
Dated: January 29, 1992
s/s Rudi Brewster
Honorable Rudi Brewster
US District Court; Southern District of California
* Dr. Morris is President of ICR.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2002. Creation and First Amendment Rights. Acts & Facts. 31 (6).