Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) is a Kansas-based group whose name suggests a corollary of Badger’s Law. COPE “promotes the religious rights of parents, children, and taxpayers” and claims that public schools “promote a ‘non-theistic religious worldview’ by allowing only ‘materialistic’ or ‘atheistic’ explanations to scientific questions,” which is false (if anyone could offer a genuine non-materialistic explanation for anything in science – “and then a miracle happened” is not an explanation – it would be allowed). In particular, the group filed a suit (details here) in 2013 challenging Kansas’s science standards because they include the teaching of evolution, which COPE claims is a religion and therefore should be excluded from science classes: by teaching evolution “the state would be ‘indoctrinating’ impressionable students in violation of the First Amendment.” COPE’s mission, by contrast, is to create “religious[ly] neutral” schools won’t promote “pantheistic and materialistic religions, including Atheism and Religious (‘Secular’) Humanism” – a category that includes “Darwinian evolution” and apparently the Big Bang.
COPE was founded in 2012, with young-earth creationist Jorge Fernandez as president (Fernandez has published articles in Journal of Creation and on the True.Origin Archive website). He was later replaced by Robert P. Lattimer, the current president. Lattimer has previously been involved with Science Excellence for All Ohioans, a creationist group that – backed by the hate-group The American Family Association and strongly supported by Governor Taft’s chief of staff, Brian Hicks – tried to undermine the treatment of evolution in Ohio’s state science standards in 2002 (Lattimer himself was, for some reason, appointed to the Ohio science standard writing committee). Back then, the goal was to lobby the Ohio Board of Education to give intelligent design creationism (ID) equal time with evolution in science classes; after the Dover trial that goal has become unrealistic (to Lattimer’s intense dismay), so in Kansas the goal was modified to rather banning science in general from science classes.
Lattimer has said, concerning his support of ID, that “[a]mong scientists, we’re a distinct minority. Among the public, I’d say I’m easily in the majority,” which was apparently intended as an argument for the scientific legitimacy of ID. Apparently, he used to be a standard Biblical creationist, but switched to Intelligent Design for political reasons, and has for more than a decade been pushing ID to various congregations, schoolboards, and others willing to listen. Of course, it is all about marketing – Lattimer hasn’t even considered trying to support ID by research or science. He is, however, a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.
The other board members of COPE are:
- Anne Lassey, vice-president, who has served as “teacher, principal and Superintendent of Schools in several locations in Kansas,” which is dismaying.
- Debra Marks, vice-president, whose “passion in life is to help educate people regarding the value of family and life and how to avoid the often tragic and painful consequences of not making wise choices;” this passion is not further detailed, but it sounds ominous enough for us to recommend that you stay well away from her.
- Greg Lassey, treasurer, who has “taught Advanced Biology at the high school level,” clearly without having minimal understanding of central parts of the subject.
- Albert Gotch, who has a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry and is therefore a major catch for an anti-science group like COPE (even though the education is unrelated to evolution); he has also been Director of the Stark County Home School Association, and the Executive Director of the Akron Fossils & Science Center, a small, Ohio-based creation museum.
- Christy Hooley, a homeschooler who runs the “Wyoming Against Common Core” blog.
- Joseph Renick, who is “Executive Director of the Intelligent Design network of New Mexico, where he advocates for objective science education”. That group has a history of supporting antievolution legislation in NM: in 2011, for example, it paid for a full-page advertisement in the Albuquerque Journal in support of a (failed) “academic freedom” bill.
The lawyers representing COPE in 2013, by the way, were celebrity creationist lawyer John Calvert (founder of the Intelligent Design Network and chief strategist behind the Kansas kangaroo court hearings on evolution in 2005) and Kevin T. Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute, who helped represent Jeanne Caldwell in her (failed) 2005 lawsuit alleging that the University of California Museum of Paleontology’s Understanding Evolution website was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Diagnosis: Anti-science religious fundie – and apparently a resourceful (if utterly deluded) one. Dangerous.