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Evolution in the Science Standards

Table of contents
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7

Part 4: "I want God to be a part of this."

Among Kendall's connections were the Florida Family Policy Council and the Florida Baptist State Convention's newspaper, The Florida Baptist Witness. The Witness gained notoriety in the evolution fight when it broke the news in December that state Board of Education member Donna Callaway was opposed to how evolution was presented in the science standards. Callaway was quoted as saying: "I agree completely that evolution should be taught with all of the research and study that has occurred. However, I believe it should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life." The article then wrapped up with Callaway commenting: "My hope is that there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue. As a SBOE member, I want those prayers. I want God to be part of this. Isn't that ironic?" [November 30, 2007 Florida Baptist Witness story.]

The newspaper secured that exclusive and other insider interviews through connections in the Baptist church network, which were plainly evident when the paper consistently reported what Baptist church each interviewee attended. For instance, the paper said that Callaway attends the First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, and Kendall attends the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

With one state Board member's opinion finally revealed, a few others also let the public know which side they stood on. Linda Taylor went on the record as sympathetic to the inclusion of alternative theories alongside evolution. "I think kids should have the opportunity to compare different theories," she said. Roberto Martinez firmly planted his flag on the pro-evolution side when he said: "I'm a very strong supporter of including evolution. And I think it's long overdue."

That two-to-one vote hung in the air for nearly two months until Dr. Akshay Desai evened up the score in early February. He publicly supported evolution, but wound up being the last to do so before the Feb. 19 vote. Three other votes remained clouded in mystery.

The nationally known religious organization Focus on the Family joined the battle in November, encouraging the faithful to push the state Board of Education to include intelligent design in the standards. [source] In response, FCS initiated its "All I Want for Christmas is a Good Science Education" campaign. FCS encouraged citizens to send Christmas cards to the state Board of Education that included short notes in support of sound science and evolution.

Also making news in the battle was attorney David C. Gibbs III. Gibbs was already fairly well known for representing Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings in the famous 2005 right-to-die case here in Florida, and representing Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind in a tax fraud case. Now he sent to the state Board of Education a legal memo claiming that including evolution in the science standards would violate church and state separation. [source]

Evolution reared up in regional politics, too. A former St. Petersburg councilman with higher office aspirations, Bill Foster, sent a letter to his local school board warning against the evils of evolution. "Evolution gives our kids an excuse to believe in natural selection and survival of the fittest, which leads to a belief that they are superior over the weak," he wrote. He also connected evolution to Hitler and the Columbine high school shooting. [source]

Story by Brandon Haught

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