Though debates over evolution, creationism, and Intelligent Design are usually framed as Christian vs. secularist struggles, most religions hold beliefs about the origins of the universe. Recently, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)--better known as the Hare Krishnas--joined the debate by filing an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief.

The case in question involves a Cobb County, Georgia, school board decision to put stickers on textbooks which read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. The material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." The U.S. District Court had ruled that the stickers endorsed Christianity and were a violation of church-state separation, and the school board appealed. ISKCON's Atlanta community weighed in on that appeal. The following is an excerpt from its brief:

ISKCON of Atlanta feels no threat that the Sticker favors Christianity over Vedic or Hindu views. The Sticker in question says nothing about Christianity, the Bible, God, or any religion whatsoever. As a non-Christian, minority religious organization, ISKCON of Atlanta would be concerned if the School Board mandated a sticker that actually endorsed the viewpoint of Christian fundamentalists or the Biblical account of creation. But the Sticker's sole focus is on evolution. ISKCON of Atlanta appreciates the School Board's neutral approach, and believes an informed, reasonable observer would not find any endorsement or disapproval of religion whatsoever in the School Board's Sticker.

The trial court's application of the First Amendment is hostile to religion. By going out of its way to find an endorsement of religion in the neutral wording of the Sticker, the trial court interfered with the School Board's efforts to legally accommodate the concerns of parents and students who have religious objections to evolution instruction. The Constitution affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and the School Board was trying to fulfill this mandate. The trial court's reasoning impermissibly tilts the Constitutional playing field to favor non-religion over religion.

The trial court incorrectly reasoned that the Sticker has the effect of endorsing religion because an informed, reasonable observer would supposedly know that some Christian opponents of evolution have proposed the theory/fact distinction as a "strategy" to dilute evolution education. But to the contrary, the mere fact that some Christians have proposed this "strategy" in the past does not transform it into a "Christian strategy." Were that so, virtually any idea that Christians held on any topic could not be embraced by government authorities. And the same analysis might one day be applied to bar the government from embracing ideas ISKCON holds on almost any topic. Such an approach is clearly too far-reaching.

The Sticker says nothing that could be construed as favoring belief in a creator over evolution. Moreover, the acknowledgement of a creator is an idea found not only in religion, but also in philosophy, and even in science. The courts should recognize the quite different roles that God plays in the realm of (1) religion, (2) philosophy, and (3) science. The fact that the idea of God is inherent in religions should not perpetually rule out the possibility that the idea of God can play a role in science. In the world of science, many scientists have incorporated the idea of God into their scientific work.

At different times science has been carried out employing different sets of metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality. Today, scientists favoring metaphysical assumptions that are strictly materialistic are very numerous. But there are also scientists who wish to carry out scientific work with a different set of metaphysical assumptions, which include the existence of God as an intelligent designer. Several members of ISKCON have introduced into scientific discussion evidence that contradicts the current theories and have also introduced the idea of God as having some role in the origin of living things. In the world of science there is active interest in evidence contradicting the current theories of evolution.

The trial court's ruling stifles legitimate scientific debate, and would suggest that the federal judiciary has found these scientific views scientifically unworthy, and merely expressions of religion rather than true science. But these ideas, regardless of whether they have been inspired or informed by religious belief, are actually scientific theories presented in the realm of science according to the methodology of science, and are not religious theories.

Lastly, even if the Sticker suggests the possibility of a Creator, which it does not, that suggestion would promote respect for and tolerance of peoples who hold different beliefs in our religiously-diverse nation, a valid secular goal that would not endorse religion.

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