Background: In April 1990, the Institute for Creation Research filed suit in federal court against the California Department of Education, which has denied the ICR Graduate School of Science approval to operate, in effect closing it. This suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego, also names Bill Honig, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, and his aides as defendants, alleging that ICR's rights to freedom of speech and religion, as well as academic freedom, have been abridged. On August 13, preliminary motions will be heard, with depositions of witnesses to begin soon after, and a trial to follow at a later date.
|In a recent interview with Mark Looy, Public Information Officer of ICR, Dr. Henry Morris, ICR President, defended the quality of ICR's master's degree program and its faculty, and explained why its fight for academic freedom is so important to all Christian schools.|
Question: Now that the Department of Education has denied ICR reapproval to operate a graduate school of science, what is your response to the Department's claim that it is being closed because it is not comparable to other science schools?
Answer: At the outset, let me say that ICR most vigorously takes exception to the Department's "Big Brother" ruling. First, it should be pointed out that four of the five evaluators impaneled by the Department, as indicated by their previous publications and other activities, had a very strong anti-creationist bias. How could they ignore the fact that our 13 resident faculty hold doctorate degrees in science from such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Berkeley, U.C.L.A., and many others—all fully accredited? Furthermore each one of our faculty members either had taught at accredited universities or been on the research staff at important research labs, or both, throughout the United States, before coming here to ICR. Also, all of us have published significant numbers of scientific articles in our respective fields in peer-reviewed science journals.
Furthermore, we conducted a very thorough study to compare our Master's degrees offered in Biology, Geology, Physics, and Science Education to other graduate programs around the country. We know that our faculty and curricula are quite comparable to those at accredited science graduate programs in other educational institutions of similar size. In addition, our graduates—about 20 now—have gone on to use their Master's degrees in a variety of occupations. One recently received his Ph.D. in Biology at an accredited university—with a 4.0 GPA, I might add—and others are professionally employed in geologic firms, teaching at community colleges, high schools, and employed in other places.
THE REAL REASON BEHIND HONIG'S ACTIONS
Question: The California Department of Education is now saying that ICR's creationist interpretation was not a factor in denying ICR's license to operate—the quality of the program is the issue. Is that so?
Answer: That is simply not the case. The Department's intent to deny predates the panel's 1989 visit, and was based solely on ICR's creationist viewpoint. For example, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times on December 9, 1988, Mr. Honig declared that "everyone agrees creationism is not science . . . this school [ICR] sees the process differently, therefore we're seeking to deny their license to teach." Mr. Honig, in consultation with his lawyers, realized that this would be a flimsy excuse to close ICR, and then changed tactics in 1989. His new strategy turned out to be an attempt to attack the quality of the program rather than its creationist framework. Even then, in its final report on ICR, the panel declared that even if ICR would correct all its alleged deficiencies, it would still be denied its license to operate because of its creationist viewpoint.
Question: Mr. Honig says that he would allow the graduate school to operate if ICR would change the name of its Master's degrees to, for example, a "Master's in Theology" or a "Master's in Creation Studies." Isn't that a reasonable compromise?
Answer: No, it is not. Ours is a science program. All our courses are science—tectonics, quantum mechanics, biosystematics, etc. While we teach science in a creationist framework, we do not teach religious or theological courses. None of our faculty members has ever taken even one course in theology, except for Dr. Ken Cumming, the school's dean, who once took a course in comparative religions at Harvard!
Furthermore, some of our graduates would like to pursue doctorates, and we could not call our degrees "Master's of Creation Studies" because secular universities would not recognize such a degree. We teach science here, not "creation studies." As a matter of fact, we probably teach even more about evolution than most universities do. Of course, in doing this, ICR also demonstrates that evolution is bankrupt scientifically!
BILL HONIG—"EVOLUTIONARY ZEALOT"
Question: You stated that ICR has had 20 graduates. Why is Mr. Honig expending so much taxpayer money and other resources to close down such a small graduate school?
Answer: I cannot say exactly what drives Mr. Honig to persecute ICR. As an evolutionary zealot, he does seem to have a passion for outlawing creation, not only in public schools, but in private schools as well.
In early 1990, the Department, under the guidance of Mr. Honig, issued a science framework document that stipulated evolution as the only scientific model to be taught in California's public schools, not only in science courses but throughout the curriculum. Christian educators, such as Dr. Paul Kienel, Executive Director of A.C.S.I. [Association of Christian Schools International], believe that the ICR situation is a test case in the Department's crusade to remove creationism even from private schools that teach creation as an alternative to evolution.
|Mr. Honig declared that "everyone agrees creationism is not science. . . this school [ICR] sees the process differently; therefore we're seeking to deny their license to teach."|
Mr. Honig's vendetta was demonstrated in 1988 when a review panel voted 3-2 for ICR's re-approval. Mr. Honig then later persuaded one committee member to change his vote, solely on the basis of ICR's creationist orientation. This change produced a 3-2 vote against ICR. Before issuing a total denial, however, and knowing that his case would probably not stand up in court, the Superintendent attempted to negotiate with ICR and then impaneled another committee, in order to find more ammunition to use against ICR. This is the type of foe with whom we are dealing.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION IN JEOPARDY
Question: What impact could this have for Christian education in general?
Answer: This whole episode should alarm all Christian educators and, indeed, all Christians. What now is there to prevent the Department from examining private Christian schools and declaring that their science classes—and perhaps even their diplomas—are invalid in California because the schools teach creation?
What right does the State have to design a private school's curriculum? ICR receives absolutely no state or federal monies.
Christian schools may be doomed in California if this precedent is allowed to stand. Mr. Honig's secular religion—evolution—should not be imposed on a private Christian school's science program.
It is important to note that the Supreme Court, in 1987, said that public and private school teachers already possess the academic freedom to teach any scientific model of origins. Mr. Honig's actions go contrary to ICR's First Amendment rights and also fly in the face of this 1987 Supreme Court ruling.
|What right does the State have to design a private school's curriculum?|
Question: But is it proper for Christians to go to court?
Answer: We believe we can and should in this particular situation. ICR seeks to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, who "appealed unto Caesar" (Acts 25:12) for the right to teach the truth—a right which was wrongly prevented by local officials. The Bible prohibits Christians suing other Christians, but this does not apply here.
Question: With this "dark cloud" hanging over the ICR graduate school, has this negatively affected the other aspects of ICR's work?
Answer: I am glad to report that it has not. Even though this fight with the State requires much of our time as well as resources, ICR's "Back to Genesis" seminars, for example, are attracting huge crowds— larger than ever. In April, over 9,000 people attended our meetings in Costa Mesa, California, and those numbers were almost the same at our seminar in Grand Rapids, Michigan, two weeks later. The numbers of people receiving our free newsletter and purchasing our books and videotapes have all increased dramatically.
By the way, during this appeal, ICR's graduate school will continue to operate. A full slate of courses has been offered through the summer. I am sorry to report that enrollment has suffered this year because of the wide publicity the State's actions has received. We remain prayerfully confident, however, that our academic and religious freedoms will be preserved by the courts.
In the meantime, ICR would encourage Christian educators everywhere to resist any infringement on their own academic and religious freedoms. Even though this drama is being played out in California, Christian schools, nationwide, should be watching and praying. It has often before happened that, as California goes, so goes the nation.