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Religion doesn't belong in classroom

| Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2005

Not being the worshipful sort, I'm puzzled by the fight in the Dover Area School District in York County over the teaching of evolution.

On one side is a school board peppered with religious fundamentalists, people who are disgusted with the idea that their kids are being taught -- gasp! -- scientific theories about human origins in biology class.

On the other is a group of teachers and parents who aren't comfortable with passing off intelligent design -- or creationism lite -- as science.

The side of the debate you choose depends on which of the following theories about how we got here you consider less offensive.

Can we accept, as the Christian fundamentalists do, that men and women sprang wholly formed from Adam and Eve• Or do we believe that we evolved from primates• The latter would at least explain the hair on Robin Williams' back and most NFL linemen.

This shouldn't be a matter for public debate.

In a perfect world, religion would be a private concern, something parents teach their kids in the home -- sort of like the way your parents were responsible for which root vegetables you ate, or whether you ending up digging Jacques Brel records. If a person's religious faith dictates that his daughters wear veils and never be seen by males, or if someone feels more comfortable believing that all those dinosaur skeletons in the Carnegie Museum are props leftover from the last Steven Spielberg blockbuster, that's cool.

Those are private beliefs that have no place in a public institution built to educate children.

I feel most adults would be better off with a few healthy slugs of 80-proof Irish whiskey at the start of every day, but I'm smart enough not to petition the local school board to install flasks in classrooms for teachers.

Out in Dover, the issue is now in the hands of the lawyers, creatures who defy intelligent design and evolution by their very cold-blooded existence. With some teachers refusing to teach intelligent design, you have to wonder what the kids are learning these days -- besides how to use rubber bands to launch a paper clips across the room.

This genuflecting and courtroom shenanigans prove there's a dang good reason why public schools don't allow religious groups to dictate curriculum. If they did, local high schools would look like the West Bank or Northern Ireland. Kids from opposing camps would spend study hall tossing pipe bombs at each other and exchanging automatic weapons fire.

Maybe that's what the fundamentalists want, another pointless battle to prove whose side God is on. If there is a God, I'll bet He wants the kids to learn something useful.

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