The Sedalia Democrat reports that a local high school band had to turn in their band shirts because — horror of horrors — they had the well known evolution of man image on them.
The image was meant to go along with the theme of the band’s performance, Brass Evolution, in which the band would play bits from different eras. It’s a pretty neat idea, if you ask me.
Anyway, the shirts were pulled. The school superintendent who made the decision to force the students to turn in their shirts seems confused, though. He cited neutrality of the public schools with regard to religion as the main concern. I’m afraid I’ve got news for him. Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt, evolution is not religion. It is science. Good, credible science that is taught in every accredited university everywhere. What you have done is give religion explicit permission to trump science.
Let me put it another way. Public schools are required to remain neutral on matters of religion, it’s true. That means they are required not to take a stand on whether Zeus could beat Thor in a WWE Smackdown. It doesn’t mean that a particular religion gets to decide what counts as science. In fact, Mr. Pollitt has explicitly favored a religion by allowing one particular religion — Christianity — to enforce its quirky views about science on a public school.
Suppose there was a religious group that believed modern medicine was an abomination before God. If one of their children was injured on the playground and needed to be taken to the hospital, do you suppose for a minute that the Superintendent would have invoked “religious neutrality” and left the child to bleed to death? Of course not. When humans lose a certain percentage of their blood, they die. This is a scientific fact. Evolution is also a scientific fact, and nobody in any administration has the right to tell a school that they are prohibited from acknowledging a fact of science just because there are uneducated nut-jobs with conflicting religious beliefs. That is not religious neutrality.
The newspaper put a poll up, but it appears to have been taken down after the web site was overwhelmed with hits. Ironically, the internet is where all the sane people are hanging out. PZ Myers was nice enough to capture and post the results before the poll went down.
Should the Sedalia school district have pulled the Smith-Cotton High School band T-shirts?
Yes, the evolution image was inappropriate 29%
No, critics and the district are overreacting 71%
With any luck, maybe this will spur some rational debate. We need a clear mandate for educators. Science is science, and there is no religious group anywhere who has the right to prevent schools from displaying well established science on t-shirts, bulletin boards, or giant murals. Religious people don’t have the constitutional right to be sheltered from their own ignorance.