Calif. Settles Lawsuit Filed in Creationism Dispute

February 19, 1992 1 min read

The California Department of Education has settled a federal lawsuit brought against it by a Christian graduate school that arose from a dispute over the school’s creationism-based curriculum.

The department was sued in both state and federal court by the Institute for Creation Research after state education officials sought to bar the school from awarding master’s degrees in science beginning in 1988.

The Santee-based institute’s federal suit was settled for a reported $225,000 late last month, although school officials said they agreed not to disclose the terms of the settlement and thus could not confirm the figure.

The institute offers master’s degrees in biology, geology, physics, and science education. Most of its 20 to 25 students each year are teachers from public or private Christian schools who are seeking advanced degrees, said Kenneth Cumming, the dean of the graduate school.

“We teach a standard science master’s degree program,” he said. “The bottom line is this: After you’ve done your science, after you’ve done your experiments, how do you interpret it in a world view? Evolutionists interpret it all in light of the theory of evolution. We just think there are other valid world views.”

State officials sent review teams that in 1988 recommended against state approval for the school. That began a long administrative and legal battle between the institute and Bill Honig, the state superintendent of public instruction.

The state contended that the school failed to offer adequate laboratories and course content for the science degrees it offered.

The institute fought the education department in state court and through administrative proceedings over the department’s actions, and it eventually won approval to continue offering science degrees, Mr. Cumming said.

The school’s federal suit charged state officials with violating its Constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

Meanwhile, during the four-year dispute, the California General Assembly passed a law that took oversight authority of postsecondary institutions away from the education department. The law established an independent council for private, postsecondary, and vocational education to oversee such schools.

Susie Lange, a spokesman for the education department, said the school’s degree-granting programs would be subject to approval by the new council by 1995.

A version of this article appeared in the February 19, 1992 edition of Education Week as Calif. Settles Lawsuit Filed in Creationism Dispute