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Sedalia, MO is the theater for what might be considered the most recent drama over church and state separation and public school officials in some time.

The Cotton-Smith High School Marching Band recently debuted at the Missouri State Fair parade, t-shirts promoting their fall music program “Brass Evolutions 2009”. The shirts which depicted the ‘evolution of man’ hoping to portray the evolution of brass instruments from the 60s to modern day; led to many complaints by concerned parents and teachers in Sedalia, upset that the Band’s Directors would breach Church and State separation, upsetting many parents and community members who hold strong opinions on the subject of Religion and Evolution.

In response to upset parents and the complaints of some school staff, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt took action stating that the district must remain “neutral” when religion is concerned and asked that the band students return their t-shirts, which cost the school $700 to produce, to be replaced by new shirts which will undergo a design approval process before being printed.

Surgeon, scientist and blogger, Orac of Respectful Insolence assesses the language used by Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt, stating;

“Look at the terminology used by Mr. Pollitt: The school must remain “neutral” towards religion. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with religion! It’s science, supported by enormous quantities of evidence. Religious fundamentalists who are ignorant of science, like the people in Sedalia who complained about an innocent and rather amusing band T-shirt, may think that evolution has something to do with religion, but that’s their problem.”

With respect to the school districts attempt to remain “neutral”, they may have done just the opposite in their choices by catering to the concerned fundamentalist parents by accepting their view of the relationship between the Theory of Evolution and Religion, of which there is no legitimate connection other than its challenge to the belief of creation; which not all religions accept. Creating somewhat of a gray area as to which sciences directly violate church and state separation, if any? After all, these same children are taking Biology classes in which much of what they learn day to day is based upon the Theory of Evolution.

Band parent Sherry Melby, also a Sedalia school teacher, stated that she stood behind the superintendent’s decision to have the school children return the shirts proclaiming,

“I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

Superintendent Pollitt went on to say,

“If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing.”



Respectful Insolence

Sedalia Democrat

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