MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Ball State University has refused to
release a faculty review of a professor's honors course on the origins of
the universe that an atheist organization says is actually an attempt to
portray the Bible as science.
"We define student evaluations and other teaching evaluations, such as the
review panel's report, as part of a personnel file. It is not our practice
to release such materials. We have a consistent history of protecting the
privacy of personnel records and do not believe that Dr. Hedin should be
treated differently, "Ball State spokeswoman Joan Todd said Tuesday.
Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage told The Star Press in an email
that he believed the university had the right to deny open records
requests for the review panel's report. But Ball State could release the
report if it wanted to, he said.
"The law gives discretion to the university to determine whether the
records should be disclosed in response to a request. There is a
difference between confidential and discretionary," Hoage said in the
The review panel was formed after the Freedom From Religion Foundation
filed a formal objection with Ball State in March arguing that Eric
Hedin's "Boundaries of Science" class violated separation of church and
state by promoting religious belief at the public university.
The syllabus says the course explores arguments for "hidden wisdom within
this reality" and to give students "food for thought."
The Foundation maintained that Hedin's class was really an attempt to
"proselytize" students, and said some students had complained about his
preaching in class.
The Discovery Institute, which also filed a public records request, argued
that "academic freedom means nothing if it does not protect professors
from all sides of the intellectual and ideological spectrum" and the case
against Hedin is "based on falsehoods" because he does not teach
creationism, but intelligent design, which is different.
Supporters of intelligent design say it is based on scientific evidence
suggesting that the universe and evolution could not have developed by
chance, while creationists teach that the Old Testament story that the
world was created in seven days is literally true.
However, the Institute's website says the group's is "dedicated to the
reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the
worldview from which they issued," as conceived by the ancient Hebrews,
Greeks and Christians.
"There is no difference between those two," Freedom from Religion
Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel told The Associated Press Tuesday.
"Intelligent design is just creationism rebranded."
"It's like teaching alchemy alongside chemistry," he said.
In 2005, a federal judge in Pennsylvania found that intelligent design and
creationism are the same thing.
"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact
that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point
should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative
hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to
misrepresent well-established scientific propositions," Judge John Jones
wrote in a lengthy opinion.
Teaching intelligent design in public schools sent a "strong message of
religious endorsement," Jones said.
Earlier this month, Ball State stirred more contention for hiring
astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, who authored a book arguing that the
conditions that produced life on Earth suggest an intelligent design.