The smithsonian Institution does not have to depict the Biblical version of the universe's creation even though the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History has exhibits showing the evolutionary theory of the world's beginning, a federal judge ruled here yesterday.
The National Bible Knowledge Association, the National Foundation for Fairness in Education and the foundation's executive director, Dale Crowley Jr., claimed that the museum's existing exhibits depicting evolutionary theory and a major exhibit on evolution scheduled to open May 15 violated the government's role of religious neutrality as outlined in the First Amendment. Crowley and the groups contended that the Smithsonian was thus establishing "a religion of secular humanism."
But U.S. District Court Judge Barrington D. Parker said that "the Smithsonian in no way treats evolution as part of a religion, secular humanism or otherwise."
Parker said the museum's presentation of evolutionary theory, in line with the 1846 legislation creating the Smithsonian, "has the solid secular purpose of "increasing and diffusing knowledge among men' as to scientific learning on creation and environmental adaptation.
"The primary effect of the evolution exhibits is not to advance a religious theory or to inhibit plaintiffs in their religious beliefs," Parker said in his opinion. "Even accepting their argument that evolution is hostile to their beliefs as to creation this impact is at most incidental to the primary effect of presenting a body of scientific knowledge."
Parker said the "Supreme Court has made it clear that 'the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them.' The plaintiffs can carry their beliefs into the museum with them, though they risk seeing science exhibits contrary to that faith."
The Natural History Museum currently mentions evolution in descriptions of various displays. But it plans a major exhibit on evolution starting in May that will depict the "Mechanism of how evolution takes place," according to the project's director, John M. Burns, an entomologist.