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ACLU Seeks Information on 'Intelligent Design' Discussion in Brunswick Science Class

BRUNSWICK, Maine - The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine is waiting for curriculum materials from the Brunswick School Department as reassurance that "intelligent design" is not being taught in science classrooms across the district.Atttorneys with the group filed a Freedom of Access Act request after the parent of a fifth grader charged that a teacher had covered intelligent design during a recent lesson on how the universe was created.

Lawyers with ACLU of Maine lay out the crux of the dispute in a letter sent to Paul Perzanoski, superintendent of the Brunswick Schools Department.  In it, they quote a Jan. 9 e-mail to parents from a science teacher at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School.

"This week was a discussion on how the universe was created," fifth-grade teacher Lou Sullivan writes. "After discussing the Big Bang and Intelligent Design, I realized my worksheet for the lesson was terribly inadequate."

"The Big Bang theory was being presented in a fifth-grade class, alongside discussions of God creating the universe. That raised concerns for the parent and that raised concerns for us," says Zachary Heiden, the legal director for the ACLU of Maine.

Both the U.S. and Maine Constitutions, notes Heiden, prohibit the government from promoting religion. A further review of documents from the class in question by the civil liberties group confirmed that the teacher's astronomy lesson made reference to the view that god created the universe.

Heiden says the ACLU of Maine has seen cases like this before. "We asked the school district to do two things: First, insure that religion is not being taught in science classes. And second, provide us with material so that we can review what is going on in science classes across the district."

Brunswick schools Superintendent Paul Perzanoski declined to do a taped interview or provide a written statement to MPBN. But in an interview with the Portland Press Herald, Perzanoski denied that the teacher taught intelligent design.

"He said something to the effect that he believes in the Big Bang theory, but also believes that there may be a higher power," the Press Herald quotes Perzanoski, paraphrasing Sullivan. "We told him he could not answer that particular question in that way again."

Heiden says the district has told the Maine ACLU that it's gathering the curriculum material the group has requested and hopes to get it to them as soon as possible.