U.S. Justice Department drops investigation of professor as he drops evolutionist requirement
Texas Tech University biology professor Michael Dini told his students he wouldn't write letters of recommendation to medical schools if they didn't believe in Darwinism.
"It is easy to imagine how physicians who ignore or neglect the Darwinian aspects of medicine or the evolutionary origin of humans can make poor clinical choices," he said.
That rightly sounded like religious discrimination to the U.S. Department of Justice. It launched an investigation in response to a complaint from the Liberty Legal Institute, which was also preparing a lawsuit against Dini.
"There's no problem with Dr. Dini saying you have to understand evolution," chief counsel Kelly Shackelford had said. "But you can't tell students that they have to hold the same personal belief that you do."
Yesterday the Justice Department announced it was closing its investigation, noting that Dini has changed his policy. He now only requires that students be able to explain the theory of evolution; they don't have to affirm a personal belief in it.
"The new policy rightly recognizes that students don't have to give up their religious beliefs to be good doctors or good scientists," Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd Jr. says in a press release. "A biology student may need to understand the theory of evolution and be able to explain it. But a state-run university has no business telling students what they should or should not believe in. If the separation of church and state is to mean anything, it must surely mean that such matters of conscience are beyond the reach of government inquiry."
Liberty Legal Institute staff attorney Hiram Sasser was ecstatic. "He now has a new policy, and as long as he is applying it in a constitutional way, everything will be great. This is complete victory," he told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "He won't be engaging in any religious discrimination anymore."
But Texas Tech officials say Sasser and the Department of Justice are wrong—Dini didn't change his policy, since he never really required students to be Darwinists.
"Dr. Dini will not do anything now he didn't do previously," Cindy Rugeley, vice chancellor for news and information, told the Avalanche-Journal. "He has never required people to take a religious stand. … He never, never asked anyone to disavow their religious beliefs."
The university also said that even if he had made the requirement, that's his right. "A professor can use whatever criteria they want to make a recommendation," Rugeley said. "Our position all along has been a professor or any individual … can establish their own criteria for making a recommendation."
Baptist pastor arrested for bank robbery spree
Last week the FBI arrested Warren Brown, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, as he tried to rob a bank in the area.
The agents say he's admitted robbing six banks and credit unions this year.
So far, Brown's family and church, an independent Baptist congregation with between 30 and 50 members, aren't talking, though one congregation member told television station KFOR that the church was in financial trouble and hadn't been able to pay Brown's salary. (The site has video.)
Other pastors expressed dismay, and were surprised by their colleague's actions.
"When somebody does something like that, they are not acting as people of faith," said Joey Clifton, Norman's First Baptist Church minister of education and faith development, told The Norman Transcript. "They are not being the kind of person that God would want them to be. I wonder sometimes in life what caused this person to profess to be a minister, while at the same times these things are going on. I just don't have an answer to that."
- The mission | Protestant missionaries have been criticized for their plans to evangelize in Iraq. If history is any guide, they're not likely to have much luck anyway (The Boston Globe)
- The true good Samaritans | By following guidelines in Iraq (as Samaritan's Purse and other Christian aid groups already do in other countries) and through effective and heartfelt actions, Franklin Graham can gain the trust of his critics (Editorial, The New York Times)
- Alarm at American crusade to convert Muslims (The Times, London)
- Senators wary of theocracy In Iraq | Appearing on separate Sunday news shows, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) said that whether such a government arises depends, in part, on U.S. officials' commitment to working with Iraqi leaders who view tolerance and freedom as essential to a democracy (The Washington Post)
- Christian evangelists in postwar Iraq: Who are the infidels now? | For years, Muslim fanatics have tried to sow hatred between Muslims and "infidels" (read Christians). Similarly, Christian fanatics have tried to sow hatred between followers of their faith and "infidels" (read Muslims) (The Globe and Mail)
- Easter messages challenge war | Archbishop of Canterbury, others maintain their challenge to the morality of war in Iraq (The Telegraph, London)
- Of empty tombs and angels | For the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the two angels in John's description of the tomb are rich in theological implications (The New York Times)
- Fat chance of Christ regaining Easter initiative | It was a strange Easter, because for the first time in living memory I didn't see an image of the crucified Christ (Paul McDermott, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
- Burnham done with book on hostage ordeal (The Wichita Eagle)
- Also: An excerpt from In The Presence Of My Enemies | This excerpt from Gracia Burnham's book deals with the death of her husband, Martin, during a rescue attempt (The Wichita Eagle)
- Straight and narrow | Chris Lehmann reviews Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History by James A. Morone (The Washington Post)
- Founding father | Jeff Sharlet reviews The Discovery of God by David Klinghoffer and The God of Old by James L. Kugel (The Washington Post)
- Soul on fire | In his superb new biography of Jonathan Edwards, George Marsden has given us the most comprehensive account we have of the man who is the spiritual godfather of our nation (The Washington Post)
- Mary Magdalene was 'a priestess from Ethiopia' | So says Lynn Picknett in Christianity's Hidden Goddess (The Times, London)
- Michael Dirda reviews The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God by Robert Louis Wilken (The Washington Post)
- New book defends gospel account of resurrection story | The Rev. N.T. "Tom" Wright disputes modern Gospel interpretations (Associated Press)
- Earlier: Editor's Bookshelf: Life After Life After Death | The Resurrection of the Son of God is a "ground-clearing exercise" of historiographical obstacles (Christianity Today, Apr. 17, 2003)
- Scientific views of Biblical miracles | Professor Colin Humphreys claims in a new book that phenomena described in Exodus can be shown to have natural causes, which science can explain (BBC)
Politics and law:
- President Bush is a Christian | Why does that bother people? (Robert l. Bartley, The Wall Street Journal)
- The Constitution be damned | Democrats try to impose a religious test on judges (Brendan Miniter, The Wall Street Journal)
- Drug war puts its faith in faith | Bush's voucher plan would boost religious programs (Chicago Tribune)
- Bush legislative approach failed in faith bill battle | White House is faulted for not building a consensus in Congress (The Washington Post)
- Scholar nominee criticizes Bush comments | Daniel Pipes says presidents shouldn't talk about religion" and it was wrong to "make generalizations" about Islam (Associated Press)
- Bush worships with ex-POWs | A chipper President Bush celebrated Easter with two freed POWs at a Texas military base's church (The New York Post)
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