Creationism as Charity?

Texas state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, clearly has a problem with scientists who — go figure — support science. Rep. Berman is calling on the University of Texas at Austin to fire a tenured biology professor who objects to including an anti-science creationist group on a list of state-approved charities that are supposed to be involved in delivering health and human services.

The Austin American-Statesman has reported that biology professor David Hillis and other UT-Austin faculty members are trying to get the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) removed from the charity list. Employees can have donations to charitable organizations on the list deducted from their paychecks.

According to the Statesman, state law requires that charities eligible for the list provide “direct or indirect health and human services.” But that’s not what ICR does. The Dallas-based nonprofit promotes biblical creationism and rejects mainstream science about evolution.

Hillis told the Statesman:

“The Institute for Creation Research is an anti-science organization. They work to undermine the mission of the university and of science in general, and especially the science that is the very basis for health and human services. How could such an organization possibly be listed as a charitable organization to be supported by state employees?”

Rep. Berman on Thursday sent a statement to the Austin-based political news website Quorum Report (subscription required), charging that Prof. Hillis “fears debate on evolution vs. creationism” and that “Godly professors of science who are creationists fear retribution” from scientists like Hillis:

“Professor Hillis would do well to take a sabbatical from science and do a little research in the social studies. … The meaning of Academy, or University, or College, is a place to seek the truth.  How can you determine the truth when you only hear from a Professor Hillis and his joy of shoving evolution down someone’s throat.

If I were Chancellor, I would fire him for trying to deny individuals of their first amendment rights.   As a legislator, I think removing tenure if he has tenure and putting him back to work, would be the best thing the state can do.”

Rep. Berman is one of the most extreme right-wing lawmakers in Texas. This past spring, for example, he promoted anti-Muslim hysteria by proposing legislation he said would ban Sharia law in Texas (even though the First Amendment already bars religion-based laws). His legislation failed to pass. He also insists that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and has even suggested that the president’s election represented “God’s punishment on us.”

The Institute for Creation Research has also been in the news in recent years. In 2008 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board wisely rejected an absurd application by ICR to offer master’s degrees in science education. Then two years later a federal court dismissed an ICR lawsuit that would have forced the Coordinating Board to reverse its earlier decision.

12 thoughts on “Creationism as Charity?

  1. What is it with people bearing the name Leo? First Terri Leo and now Leo Berman. Before you know we’ll hear from someone bearing the name Leo the Godly or another grandiloquent name.

  2. I competed a comprehensive review of ICR’s 2008 proposal to the Coordinating Board for a MS in Science Education. The course outlines submitted with the proposal clearly reflected creationist tenets that lack supporting evidence and contradict/refute scientific findings that are supported by substantial evidence. David Hillis was a member of the review committee that unanimously recommended ICR’s proposal be rejected by the Coordinating. It is quite evident that ICR’s mission is sectarian mission is narrow and only serves the ideology of the organization’s supporters and their audience.

    i applaude David Hillis and his colleagues for initiating this action. I’m retired and can’t be fired!

  3. Won’t these Texas ‘publicans ever figure out God is punishing them and the whole state for electing such folks as Gov. Perry, Rep. Berman and all in between. No doubt God, in all his wisdom, will continue to let significant rain fall on Texas and continue to kindle more fires than can be controlled until Democrats are put back in charge of what was once a Great State.

  4. I nominate Berman for chancellor of UT…we must prepare our children for the challenges of 16th century !

  5. Rep. Berman, please crawl back under your rock and leave things to those who are educated. From your statement, it shows you are not (educated).

  6. Let’s fix a sentence you quoted:

    “How can you determine the truth when you only hear from a Leo Berman and his joy of shoving religion down someone’s throat.

    If I were his constituent, I would fire him for trying to deny individuals of their first amendment rights.”

    Conservatives are always going on about freedom. My question is: Freedom for whom to do what?

  7. Definition – ICR: Lies and Litigation

    This is the ICR “press release” regarding their attempt to panhandle for money under the radar. My comments in parentheses.

    DALLAS, December 1 — A University of Texas biology professor is hoping that he can tell all Texas state employees where they can and cannot give their own money this Christmas.

    (LIE. Employees can cut a check to anybody they like.)

    Professor David Hillis, who teaches integrative biology at the school, said that no state employee in Texas should have the right to donate their own gifts to the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a 41-year-old non-profit educational organization based in Dallas. State employees are allowed to designate charitable gifts as deductions from their payroll each year through the State Employees Charitable Campaign. ICR has been an approved charity in this program for the past two years.

    (LIE. The issue is that ICR is on a list of charities that provide “health and human services” neither of which the ICR does. This money would only line the pockets of the ICR and that is wrong and unethical, not that ICR is bothered by those social obligations.)

    Professor Hillis, in his role as a representative of the university, stated of ICR’s educational programs to the Austin American Statesman: “They work to undermine the mission of the university and of science in general….”

    (LIE. Hillis does not represent the University of Texas.)

    It is unclear if Hillis was acting on his own initiative or if his public statements were sanctioned by UT administration officials.

    (LIE. It is clear that Hillis does not represent UT. Did ICR not read the sentence the wrote above this?)

    The University of Texas does, in fact, teach religion, and has an established Department of Religious Studies, which instructs students every day about various religions around the world, including evangelical Christianity, but all of which invoke some sort of supernatural deity into their belief systems. Evolutionary biology teachers like Hillis believe science has no room for a supernatural deity or designer.

    (LIE. UT does not “teach religion,” rather UT has courses about religions, as do all secular universities.)
    (LIE. It is not that there is “no room” for gods in evolution, rather gods are not necessary to make the theory work.)

    ICR is concerned that a state employee is attempting to dictate to his fellow state employees how they give their own money to charities, or whether it is ethical for a state employee to sponsor discrimination against a Christian or other religious entity.

    (LIE. The attempt is to remove so-called charities that do not meet the legal qualification of providing “health and human services” which ICR clearly does not do. ICR is mad because their little pin-money scam is about to be shut down.)

    Whether UT officials will hold a formal hearing on Professor Hillis’ conduct is yet to be seen. It is also unclear what steps state educational agencies will take against the UT professor or the school if it shown that a state employee or entity sought to sponsor religious discrimination against an approved charity. ICR also wonders if Professor Hillis or other UT employees have previously attempted this type of discriminatory action, essentially trying to make Christian organizations “back of the bus” charities.

    (LIE. There is no religious discrimination at stake. Many of the charities that meet the requirements of providing “health and human services” are faith-based. Hillis is only trying to expose grifters, like ICR.

    The Institute for Creation Research, founded in 1970, conducts scientific research in geology, genetics, astro/geophysics, and much more, communicating its results through a variety of degree and non-degree programs, and through books, magazines, videos, and radio broadcasts.

    (LIE. ICR conducts no scientific research. They sell a masters degree for about $13,000 which is just as good as a degree old Doc Bill would sell you for the price of a SASE.)

    Merry Christmas, ICR! Perhaps a New Year’s resolution for you would be to offer a course in a subject that is totally new to you: Ethics.

  8. Directly from the ICR website and I quote:

    Please know that ICR receives minimal support through workplace giving programs like this, so any potential loss of financial support through this program is of little concern.

    Either the ICR is lying about the “potential loss of financial support” or they are concerned enough to have a page on their website whining about this.

    Hey, we report, you decide!

    If it’s of “little concern” then strip them from the state program. Obviously, they don’t care one way or another.

  9. I read exactly what I expected to see here. The comments section was actually enlightening.

    What do you get when you say anything negative about people who do not believe in God? – A lawsuit

    What do you get when you say something negative about people who do believe in God? High 5’s, snickering and mocking. You also get people who think they know more than they do. Then they show their ignorance without even realizing they don’t know as much as they purport to know. Perhaps they should spend more time learning how to do “thorough” research?

    ICR does actual scientific research. *gasp*
    ICR doesn’t seem as concerned about the money. Maybe because it’s the principle of the matter?
    ICR doesn’t supply health and human services? Hmm, I guess teaching isn’t a human service. Let’s fill the universities up with apes then. I mean, they ARE our ancestors and obviously need it more than we do.

    What do you get when you cut and paste things, leaving out chunks and adding your own bias? Well, just read above and see for yourself.

    Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with ICR. I discovered their website a few days ago and have been reading what’s on it. I don’t know anyone at ICR, nor do I know anyone else who knows someone at ICR. So, if you want to attack me, please go ahead. Because I do not care if you agree with me or not.