Review of the Petition for Contested Case Status
of the Institute for Creation Research
to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
by Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D.
Texas Citizens for Science
2008 June 2
[This review is forthcoming--it was started in late May but is not yet in final form due to delays incurred by other time-dependent writing. For now, read the press release and news reports below. All pertinent documents about the ICR matter, including the 755-page May 28 Petition, are available at http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/AAR/PrivateInstitutions/icr.cfm. Also, the TCS website has plenty of analysis and news reports concerning this case.]
Academic Freedom in the Balance
ICR Graduate School Files Appeal Petition with Texas Education Officials
Institute for Creation Research
May 28, 2008
DALLAS, May 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- The California-based Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS), established in 1981, has submitted its formal petition to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) calling for the education agency to reverse its decision to deny ICRGS’ application for a Certificate of Authority to grant Master of Science degrees in the state of Texas.
The petition paves the way for ICRGS to sue the state agency and its officials in federal and/or state court.
The unconstitutional exercise of “viewpoint discrimination” is the focus of the ICRGS appeal and names Commissioner Raymund Paredes, Assistant Commissioner Joseph Stafford, Academic Excellence Committee chairperson Lyn Bracewell Phillips, and other THECB board members, who denied the application of ICRGS because its program is based on a creationist interpretation of scientific data rather than an evolutionary interpretation, which is prevalent in public education.
The ICRGS petition claims that the THECB failed to evaluate the ICRGS application without viewpoint discrimination. The formal petition sent to Austin includes 26 evidentiary appendices that buttress the academic freedom and other legal rights of ICRGS to offer its 27-year-old graduate program to Texas residents.
The petition was also delivered to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott due to the THECB’s alleged violations of constitutional law standards.
ICR Graduate School Releases Documents in Texas Academic Freedom Case
May 2, 2008
On March 26, 2008, the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School (ICRGS) submitted documents to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) in Austin, Texas, in response to a request to provide institutional documentation that describes the Master of Science in Science Education program offered by the school. These documents were subsequently reviewed by the THECB as part of the ICRGS application for a Certificate of Authority to grant degrees in the state.
At the THECB Commissioners meeting on April 24, 2008, Commissioner Raymund Paredes and his board voted to deny the ICRGS authority in the state to grant the M.S. degree in Science Education. Dr. Paredes read into the record his recommendation at a committee meeting the day before, expressing his belief that the ICRGS promoted a viewpoint different from perceived science standards in the state, based on his non-public consultations with yet-to-be-identified science educators.
Because of the choice of the THECB to withhold from the public the ICRGS documents—documents that demonstrate that the ICRGS does indeed meet and, in some cases, exceed state educational standards—the ICRGS is making the entire document available to the public.
It will become clear to careful readers that 1) the ICRGS M.S. program is both a demanding and rigorous academic offering to Texas students desiring to be equipped in major disciplines of science and in the practical aspects of teaching science to others, and 2) the THECB, and its advisers, failed to properly evaluate the ICRGS program based on educational and academic standards, as expressed in the documents, preferring rather to penalize the ICRGS program because of differences in viewpoint regarding how and why ICRGS teaches science and science education.
The importance of the ICRGS’ institutional viewpoint of creationism, as an example of academic freedom, was explained by Dr. Eddy Miller, Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the ICRGS, who flew from California with other faculty members to attend and participate in the THECB proceedings.
The Institute for Creation Research, founded in 1970, began offering graduate degrees in California in 1981 where it received full authority by the state to operate its graduate school. Based in Santee, California, the ICRGS currently offers the M.S. in Science Education through an online distance education program.
For the past 27 years, qualified applicants have completed the M.S. degree through ICRGS, some going on to enter doctoral programs in the sciences at various universities throughout the U.S., while many have obtained their degree to assist them in the teaching of science in secondary and post-secondary schools, many of whom have had as their primary career emphasis the teaching of science in the Christian school environments.
The ICRGS, a private postsecondary institution which receives no federal funding, contends that 1) the ICRGS program is completely voluntary for qualified applicants, 2) the ICRGS program in no way compels graduates to only teach in state-funded public schools, and 3) the ICRGS program recognizes that its educational emphasis is well suited for the Christian school science teacher.
The ICRGS believes that the decision by the state of Texas unnecessarily discriminates against Texas residents seeking the type of education that the ICRGS can uniquely fulfill and has successfully offered for more than 25 years to students throughout the country.
Because of the decision by THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes and the THECB Board, the state of Texas is denying a full-range of educational offerings to Texas residents in the area of science education, and in doing so, is failing to “close the gaps” in higher education.
Texas accused of 'viewpoint discrimination'
Organization staffed with Ph.D.s denied permission to offer degrees
Posted: May 28, 2008
The Institute for Creation Research Graduate School has accused Texas officials of participating in illegal "viewpoint discrimination" for refusing it a Certificate of Authority to grant degrees.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently rejected the formal application from the ICR graduate school program even though the organization now is approved to grant degrees by the state of California, and has been for decades.
The organization said today it wants the education agency to reverse its rejection of the ICR plan to grant Master of Science degrees.
The petition paves the way for ICRGS to file a legal action against the state agency and its officials. Named in the action that cites the state's unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination are Commissioner Raymund Paredes, Assistant Commissioner Joseph Stafford, Academic Excellence Committee chairman Lyn Bracwell Phillips and other THECB board members.
According to ICR, Texas "denied the application of ICRGS because its program is based on a creationist interpretation of scientific data rather than an evolutionary interpretation, which is prevalent in public education."
The organization said its formal petition includes 26 evidentiary appendices that support the academic freedom and other legal rights of ICRGS to offer its 27-year-old graduate program to Texas residents. The petition also was delivered to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott because of the alleged constitutional violations.
WND reported earlier when the state made its decision. It came despite the fact the ICRGS faculty sports Ph.D.'s from UCLA, Penn State, the University of Montana, Colorado State, Case Western and Indiana University.
The rejection came on the recommendation of Paredes despite earlier approval recommendations from a site team dispatched by the state agency to evaluate the education offerings as well as the agency's advisory committee.
In a situation that appears to be an example of the academic censoring described in Ben Stein's movie "Expelled," state officials even read into the record for the agency's hearing a state statute regarding "fraudulent" education programs without giving supporters of the ICR program an opportunity to explain or respond.
"Expelled" covers the following key questions:
* Were we designed or are we simply products of random chance, mutations and evolution occurring without any plan over billions of years?
* Is the debate over origins settled?
* How should science deal with what appears to be evidence of design?
* What should be taught to children and college students about our origins?
* Is there any room for dissent from the evolutionary point of view?
* Is it appropriate for eminent scientists who depart from strict evolutionary dogma to be fired and blacklisted, as is occurring in academia today?
* Should government schools and other institutions be engaged in promoting the secular, materialistic worldview to the total exclusion of differing points of view?
* Is science so advanced and so certain that it should be exempt from the societal norms of open dialogue and free debate?
* Why is it simply inconceivable and unacceptable for some evolutionists to consider the possibility – no matter how remote – that our world might actually have a Creator?
"This is the second time in 18 years that a state's top educational authority has attempted to thwart the Institute for Creation Research's ability to offer master's degrees in science and science education," said a statement from the Answers in Genesis organization.
"Such a setback for a school – which has several qualified Ph.D. scientists on its faculty – merely confirms what the just-released film 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed' has been exposing: academia will not tolerate any challenge to evolutionist orthodoxy and will suppress the liberties of Darwin-doubters," AIG said.
ICR has been issuing master's degrees in California since 1981. In 1990, it overcame a challenge from state educational officials who tried to deny the school the opportunity to offer degrees.
Henry Morris III, the chief executive officer for the ICRGS, said the school prepares students to "understand both sides of the scientific perspective, although we do favor the creationist view."
Creation College Appeals to Board, Claims 'Viewpoint Discrimination'
By Aaron Leichman
Christian Post Reporter
Thu, May. 29 2008
A California-based Creation college is challenging a decision by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that denied the school the right to grant science degrees in the state of Texas.
In its petition, the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School alleges that THECB board members rejected its application to grant state approved degrees on the basis of “viewpoint discrimination” and its views differing from the evolutionary interpretation of Darwinism.
The petition, which was also submitted for review to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, will open up the path for the school to sue the state education agency and its officials in a federal or state court.
“THECB, and its advisers, failed to properly evaluate the ICRGS program based on educational and academic standards… preferring rather to penalize the ICRGS program because of differences in viewpoint regarding how and why ICRGS teaches science and science education,” the school explained in a statement.
Last month, members of the THECB voted to turn down the Christian research institute’s proposal to offer an online Master of Science Education degree program. The Academic Excellence and Research Committee also rejected the proposal.
Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Raymund Paredes said the proposed degree program did not demonstrate it met acceptable standards of science and science education. He added that the decision was not questioning the validity of religious belief as a means of comprehending the world, but commented, “Religious belief is not science. Science and religious belief are reconcilable, but they are not the same thing.”
ICRGS argued that it was contradictory for its application to be rejected given its status as a leading institution of learning that had been granting degrees to students in California “with full authority” by the state since 1981.
“For the past 27 years, qualified applicants have completed the M.S. degree through ICRGS, some going on to enter doctoral programs in the sciences at various universities throughout the U.S., while many have obtained their degree to assist them in the teaching of science in secondary and post-secondary schools, many of whom have had as their primary career emphasis the teaching of science in the Christian school environments,” the school said.
Founded in 1981, the Institute for Creation Research lists as its mission to equip believers “with evidence of the Bible's accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework.”
In 2007, the school began the process of relocating from its campus in Santee, Calif., to its brand new 5-acre campus in Dallas, Texas.
Creationist school fights ruling
Institute appeals state's decision to prevent offering of science education degree
By JEANNIE KEVER
June 2, 2008
A Bible-based school and research institute has asked the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to reverse its decision not to allow the school to offer a master's degree in science education.
A spokesman for the Institute for Creation Research said the appeal "paves the way" for it to file a lawsuit against the state agency.
But first, the issue will go to an administrative hearing. Joe Stafford, assistant commissioner for academic affairs and research at the coordinating board, said the independent Office of Administrative Hearings has 180 days to hear the case.
Institute spokesman Lawrence Ford said the voluminous appeal -- it is 755 pages long, including supporting documents -- is based upon a claim of "viewpoint discrimination."
The appeal described the board's decision as "academic (and religious) bigotry masquerading as Texas Education Code 'enforcement.' "
Board members and staff are accused of denying the request in April because the institute and its leaders believe the biblical version of the Earth's creation is literally true.
Institute CEO Henry Morris III said last spring his school's program includes information about evolution, although he and others affiliated with the school don't accept the proof of evolution offered by mainstream scientists.
Board members and Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said they were concerned the degree would not equip graduates to teach science in Texas' public schools.
The real issue, Stafford said Monday, is whether the institute's course work -- offered online and still available, although not accredited -- fits the label of the proposed degree.
The disputed degree is a Master of Science in science education. "Either the curriculum or the label has to change," Stafford said.
"That label has a particular meaning of preparing somebody as a science teacher."
Paredes reiterated that in a May 21 letter to Morris. "It was determined that the designation of the degree and the content of the degree were not adequately aligned," he wrote. "Approval would require either a change in the designation of the degree or a change in the content covered."
The institute is not inclined to do either, Ford said.
Both the institute and the coordinating board have posted on their Web sites (www.icr.org and www.thecb.state.tx.us) a 371-page document prepared by the institute last spring to describe its program.
The coordinating board has also posted the institute's appeal documents.
Texas Citizens for Science Last updated: 2008 June 2