Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Court Upholds Texas Rejection of Graduate Program In Creation Science

In Institute for Creation Research Graduate School v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, (WD TX, June 18, 2010), a Texas federal district court upheld the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's refusal to grant the Institute of Creation Research Graduate School a certificate of authority to offer a Master of Science degree with a major in Science Education. The Texas Education Code (Sec. 61.301) authorizes the Board to regulate the use of "academic terminology" in order "to prevent deception of the public resulting from the conferring and use of fraudulent or substandard college and university degrees." The Board denied ICRGS's application because its curriculum which was designed to promote "scientific creationism" and "Biblical creationism" does not adequately cover the breadth of knowledge of the discipline taught. The Board's decision was based on the conclusion by the Commissioner of Higher Education that the school's program "inadequately covers key areas of science and their methodologies and rejects one of the foundational theories of modern science," and thus "cannot be properly designated as either 'science' or 'science education.'"

The court rejected ICRGS' claim that the Board engaged in "viewpoint discrimination", finding no animus toward any religious viewpoint. Applying a "rational basis" standard, the court rejected claims that the Board violated ICRGS' free exercise and free speech rights, as well as claims under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. The court concluded that the Board's "decision is rationally related to the State's legitimate interest in protecting the public by preserving the integrity of educational degrees." (See prior related posting.)