When Florida televangelist D. James Kennedy asked his viewers to donate towards the production of a TV special on the “harmful effects” of evolution – “everything from the Nazi death camps and attempts to create a super-race to the modern push in many nations for euthanasia” – he warned that “The other side has the entire public school system of America as its platform,” whereas he came armed with only “the national network of television outlets that God has given to us.” While it’s true that most high school science classes stick to scientific curricula on evolution and stay clear of attempts to equate Charles Darwin with Adolph Hitler, the Religious Right’s campaign against the teaching of evolution has its share of recruits across the nation.
After less than two weeks on the job, part-time biology teacher Kris Helphinstine was fired by the Sisters, Oregon school board for drawing his course materials from a far-right creationist website. Echoing Kennedy, Helphinstine’s attempt to “get kids thinking” involved a PowerPoint presentation linking evolutionary science to Planned Parenthood and Nazi Germany. From The Oregonian:
Helphinstine said in retrospect slides of Nazi death camps weren’t appropriate for his freshman and sophomore students.
And given a second chance, he said he wouldn’t introduce arguments from Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, a group building a Creation Museum in Cincinnati dedicated to teaching a Bible-centric view of natural history.
Answers in Genesis is a straightforward advocate of young-earth creationism; the group is building a Creation Museum in northern Kentucky apparently set to open this summer. The group provides quite a few classroom resources for teaching creationism.
This material was apparently the focus of the teacher’s entire tenure at the school:
One parent, John Rahm, said his daughter reported that only “one day of 10” was devoted to the study of evolution, with the rest devoted to devoted to “Intelligent Design” materials.
“The test as well was 90-plus percent ID material,” Rahm said.
It could be a coincidence, but Helphinstine, 27, began his new job only a couple weeks after a right-wing conference convened near Portland, around two hours away. Among the presentations at the 2nd Annual Restore America Conference was “Session for teachers, parents and students” on “Upholding a Christian Worldview in Education.” The speaker was Stephen Williams of Prepare the Way Ministries, based in nearby Bend, which is dedicated to “empower[ing] Christians … to uphold a biblical worldview in our schools and society.” Williams is known for suing the school where he taught fifth grade over his use of “supplemental materials” meant to emphasize the idea of America as a Christian nation.