D95 candidates back off creationism comments
Three candidates for the Lake Zurich Unit District 95 board are distancing themselves from comments they made about creationism's role in school.
Two of them now say they misunderstood the question asked by a Daily Herald reporter about the issue.
In a Feb. 24 interview at the Daily Herald's Lake County office, all four candidates were asked, "Do you believe that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science classes?"
All four -- incumbents Jim Burke, Doug Goldberg and Tony Pietro and newcomer Chris Wallace -- said "yes" and explained their stances. When the group was reminded that teaching creationism in science class has been ruled unconstitutional, some amended their answers.
Burke and Wallace were the only candidates to acknowledge the law's limitations on teaching creationism. Burke said he wouldn't try to get around the law, while Wallace said people must work within the law, "or you change the law."
Pietro said creationism should still be taught, but only if it's explained as a theory.
Goldberg said he hadn't studied the legal ramifications of teaching creationism in science classes.
The comments were reported in the Feb. 26 Daily Herald and online at dailyherald.com; a digital audio recording of the full exchange is available at dailyherald.com.
Since that discussion, the issue has been picked up by bloggers focused on the creationism-vs.-evolution debate and other media.
The candidates -- who are running for three seats on the board -- also have spoken about the issue on Facebook, on Chicago-area radio and at a public forum Thursday night in Lake Zurich.
At that forum, Burke, Goldberg and Pietro each said they do not believe creationism should be taught in science classes.
Wallace was the only candidate not to reverse his stance at the forum. He read a statement and quoted comments he's made on a Facebook page dedicated to the controversy, facebook.com/NoCreationismAtD95.
"It is unfortunate that the question that should have been asked was not: 'Does this candidate support the teaching of a unilateral curriculum of creationism vs. the current theory of evolution in a science class," Wallace's posting reads, in part. "The answer to that question is most assuredly no."
In a follow-up interview Friday, Wallace said he stands by the statements he made on Facebook but would not address his Feb. 24 comments to the Daily Herald.
In a separate telephone interview, Goldberg said he misunderstood the context of the original question.
Goldberg said he's researched the issue since the original Daily Herald interview session and understands teaching creationism in science class is against the law.
In a separate telephone interview, Pietro said he misunderstood the question and didn't remember that it specifically referred to science classes.
"I would like to retract the comment as it pertains to creationism in the science classroom," he said. "Creationism is not a scientific theory, and creationism has no place in a science classroom."
If creationism is taught at school, it would have to be in a world culture or sociology class that gives all religions equal time, Pietro said.
He apologized for the confusion.
Burke could not be reached for comment Friday. At the previous night's public forum, he said he has never supported creationism in science class and that "any quote that may make it look like I do has been taken out of context."
On Feb. 24, Burke said creationism should be taught "but with the caveat that it's a belief and doesn't have the scientific backing that evolutionism does."
On Thursday, a letter from the entire District 95 school board to the community was added to the district's website, lz95.org.
It states the district's curriculum follows state standards and the laws of Illinois, which do not allow for the teaching of creationism in science class.
Additionally, creationism has never been discussed by the board during the six years the current board members have served, the letter states.
"No sitting board member has ever asked to have the issue of creationism put on a meeting agenda, nor has any current board member expressed plans to do so," the letter reads.
However, the issue has surfaced in school districts across the country and in Lake County. This week, Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 officials, prompted by a public complaint, found a science teacher at Libertyville High was referencing creationism in a unit on evolution.
The district has since taken steps to ensure no science teachers reference or teach creationism in class, a District 128 spokeswoman said Friday.
The Daily Herald has asked school-board candidates in other districts about creationism's role in science curriculum, and responses have varied.