The Rev. Ruth Eller says she?s been polite for too long, and watched her deep-seeded faith come under attack.

BI respect people who have different viewpoints. I want them to respect me too,C said the leader of St. John?s Episcopal Church in Logan. BI love God and I want the depth of my faith to be respected.C

In the midst of what?s become one of the most divisive discussions among people of faith in Utah this legislative session, the question of whether an alternative to the theory of evolution should be taught in public school classrooms made its way to Eller?s pulpit Sunday morning 8 hers and hundreds of others across the country.

Eller?s church was one of more than 400 in 49 states that participated in BEvolution Sunday,C a coast-to-coast event in which religious leaders devoted a portion of their weekly service to the discussion of the compatibility of religion and science.

The movement evolved out the Clergy Letter Project 8 a petition that began circulating in 2004 and signed by more than 10,000 members of the clergy to date to Baffirm the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.C

The venture is the brainchild of Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. The idea expanded from a similar letter that was sent to northwest Wisconsin?s Grantsburg School District in 2004 after the town?s school board tried to mandate that alternative theories to evolution be taught in science classes.

BThe goal was not to tell fundamentalists that they were wrong and should change their mind,C he said. BThere are lots of controversies of evolution all within the framework of evolution. The problem is that there is not another scientific theory that can be taught.C

Eller agrees.

BWe need to be teaching our children real science, and not to doubt human reason,C said Eller. BWe?re going to fall behind the rest of the world if we don?t keep our scientific instruction up to snuff.C

And with a controversial measure that would require teachers in public schools to say the state doesn?t endorse any theory related to the Borigins of lifeC just one vote away from the Governor?s Office, opponents locally worry about the impact the legislation could have on the state?s education system if signed into law.

While Draper GOP Sen. Chris Buttars? SB96 doesn?t include language specifying any particular alternative, dissenters worry it could open the door to the principles of creationism or intelligent design.

BI don?t think it?s a good thing at all, because it?s an attempt by the political folks to put things in the curriculum where they don?t actually belong,C said Norm Jones, a history professor at Utah State University.

Zimmerman said that?s a driving force behind his efforts at keeping any tenet but evolution out of public schools.

BWe would be teaching religious doctrine in science classes,C he said. BWe as a country are toward the bottom of the developed world in teaching science structure to our students. That?s the real danger in all of this.C

Ron Kallinger, a member of Eller?s church for five years, said he doesn?t like Buttars? bill for a variety of reasons, but states one that?s become a common refrain 8 he?s not comfortable with the legislative branch dictating what should be taught and what shouldn?t.

BWe don?t need the Legislature micro-managing what?s happening in our schools,C he said. BI think it?s ludicrous.C

Eller, among the 49 Utah clergy members who signed onto the Clergy Letter Project, said leaning on the Bible for every scientific answer isn?t practical.

BThey didn?t think they were writing science,C she said of the book?s authors. BWe can?t expect the Bible to tell us about subatomic particles, but that doesn?t mean they don?t exist.C

Although she said it?s Btoo early to tellC whether movements like BEvolution SundayC or the Clergy Letter Project will change the tenor of the debate, it could pay off in other ways.

BI do hope that we get our proclamation of the gospel out there,C she said. BWe?re very reticent to share our faith, and we need to be more upfront about what we believe.C



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