ACLU warns Lebanon schools about creationism in classes

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio backed away from threats of litigation against the Lebanon City Schools Thursday after learning the district already prohibited an outside instructor from mixing creationism with archery.

“We’ll be monitoring the situation to make sure there is no more promotion of religion,” said Drew Dennis, litigation coordinator for ACLU of Ohio.

It was the second time this year the ACLU has contacted a school district in Warren County about promoting religion or creationism in public classrooms.

In the latest case, the ACLU advised the Lebanon schools the civil rights group was prepared to file a lawsuit unless the district discontinued a course combining creationism and archery in a Dec. 5 letter announced through a press release.

The creationism component was removed from short courses taught to students in October, Superintendent Mark North said.

“We took care of it as soon as we heard of it,” North said. “That was the end of it.”

The ACLU advised the school district it would take legal action after learning of the course through a feature story on the “His Pins” class in the November edition of a local weekly newspaper. The ACLU also had a complaint from a parent at Berry Middle School in Lebanon that the religious discussion continued in November, Dennis said.

Ben Steiger, founder of Heart of the Outdoors, a Christian-based outdoor organization offering the class, said the group was contacted by a Lebanon teacher.

The courses omit religious training upon request, Steiger added.

“We’ve been in 23 different schools. We don’t share that in all the schools,” he said.

Earlier this year, the ACLU warned a neighboring school district in Springboro about constitution issues related to discussions of including creationism among controversial topics permitted in local classrooms.

The debate attracted national coverage and reignited a dispute begun in 2011 after Board Member Kelly Kohls requested the district’s curriculum director look into ways of providing “supplemental” instruction dealing with creationism.

The latest proposal in Springboro was sent back for additional review by the board’s policy committee.

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