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Strange Bedfellows: Michael Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project

March 16, 2009
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

-2 Corinthians 6:14-18 

The Clergy Letter Project began in 2004 as a reaction against the Grantsburg Wisconsin school board’s proposal that “all theories of origins” be taught in all schools districts. Thanks to Michael Zimmerman’s actions, which initially only garnered less than 200 signatures, Grantsburg settled for a proposal that science educators teach both evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses.” Zimmerman hailed it as a victory for science education.

After the ‘success’ of that iniative, he was encouraged by others to make a nationwide push for this letter of evolutionary compromise. By the end of 2005, he attracted a little over 10,000 clergy signatures affirming evolution as scientific fact and surrendering the Biblical Creation account, Adam & Eve and Noah and the Ark as mere Bible Stories that teach in the tradition of Aesop’s fables, but are not factual histories. At last count, the number of signatures had grown to nearly 12,000 allegedly Christian clergy members. Since 2006, he’s also promoted the celebration of Evolution Sundays by local congregations.
Initially, he refused offers from Jewish and Muslim clergy to sign his Letter; however, since 2008 he’s expanded his Evolution Sunday concept to an Evolution Weekend to accomodate other “faith traditions.” In accordance with this idea, he now has a Jewish Clergy Letter and a Unitarian Universalist Clergy Letter. It should be noted that while the Christian Clergy Letter’s numbers are tallied separately from these other two letters, the Clergy Letter Project throws Christian, Jewish and Universalist congregations together into one lot when it tallies congregations who’ve celebrated an Evolution Weekend service. Some of the “congregations” are actually colleges like Wheeling Jesuit University [WV] whose leadership have signed the Letter. Furthermore, the list of “Christian” Clergy signatures includes members of the Unity cult which is Christian in name only.  There are also Jehovah’s Witnesses and LDS signatures on the “Christian” clergy letter, though they are condidered cults by orthodox Christians. Too, many Unitarian Universalists signatures are included on the allegedly Christian version of the letter instead of the Universalist variant. Such signatures should not be included as part of the “Christian” Clergy Letter for their inclusion is thusly misleading.
[We suspect that many of the Clergy Letter signers who belong to valid, actual Christian traditions [and not cults like Unity] could not affirm the literal, physical Resurrection of Christ, that Christ was both fully God and fully man nor that Christ Jesus is the only name under heaven and earth by which men must be saved. The Creation Letter Project is making plans to attempt to clarify the positions of the pro-evolution Clergy Letter signers on these three matters. It must be said that if they do not so agree with orthodoxy on these three matters, they cannot truly be called Christian and their clerical positions are therefore a disgraceful sham!]

TeachThemScience.org

The Texas State Board of Education will be voting on its science standards for the next 10 years on March 26-27, 2009. In the January 2009 meeting, an ammendent to re-introduce teaching evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses” failed, partly due to the efforts of a website called TeachThemScience.org which is co-sponsored by Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project. [Note that though Zimmerman casts the the board of education's decision  include the "strengths and weaknesses" mandate instead of the "teach all competing theories" as a victory, he is used TeachThemScience.org to pressure Texas BOE into removing the mandate to teach BOTH evolution's "strengths and weaknesses." It appears by his actions that his truest loyalty is not to religion, but to evolution.]
 
TeachThemScience.org is a highly predictable propaganda site. They give the same old tired “evidences” for evolution, dishonestly using observed micro-evolution as evidence of unobservable molecules-to-man macro-evolution and including the standard mammals-to-whales, horse series and Lucy-to-man scenarios as proof of transitional forms. They also include quite a few tired chestnuts under Creationism’s False Weaknesses, where they mostly gloss over actual weaknesses with “it-just-ain’t-so” bluster, the mic-evo/mac-evo bait-and-switch and gross misrepresentation of the facts, not to mention the arguments Creationists actually make. If you don’t believe them, they ask you to check out the pro-evolutionary hubris of TalkOrigins, of course.
They also thatch together quite the straw man in saying that their opponents think science is akin to politics and can be changed by a vote yet they appeal to the standard “the majority of Big Science believes in evolution, so teaching the ‘controversy’ ” line].
And their “Evolution in Action” feature has questions like “I just had a flu shot last year – why do I need one now?” as if that constituted proof for molecules-to-man evolution. Again with the mic-evo/mac-evo bait-and-switch! Oh, and they claim that we’re all in danger of choking to death because we’re poorly evolved. ;]
Under the topic “What harm is there in teaching ‘strengths and weaknesses?'” they provide us with a straw man argument involving proposed weaknesses against Round Earth Theory. They basically proposed that all of their straw man ‘weaknesses’ will sound reasonable until students learn some physics – some science. Likewise, they propose, “The weaknesses alleged with evolution have the same problem. Some of them may sound reasonable, like they might be true, but if you understood evolution, you would see that they are just as false as the above examples.” We don’t understaaaand evoluuuuuuution. We’re just ignorant Creationists, right? These are the same guys who LOST debate after debate because we had a better grasp of the evidence than they did, to the point where they started warning everybody not to debate the Creationists because we were making them look bad. Then they accused us of pulling the wool over the public’s trusting eyes with clever tricks and lies. That’s right. We must’ve cheated.
In a typical “think of the children!” ploy, they state:
“How would you feel if someone taught your child that… when writing a paper to only report facts that support the thesis and not to tell the reader about those that don’t? How would you feel if your child were taught to argue with people by exploiting their misunderstandings instead of clarifying them?”
Let me just answer THAT question now, given the current state of affairs where evolution is crammed down our children’s throats by only reporting the facts that support their argument but NEVER the weaknesses, where our children are taught to argue against design by exploiting their misunderstandings of evolution, intelligent design and creationism instead of clarifying them. Need an example: How about Eugenie Scott’s purposely misleading, vaugue and slippery definition of evolution as “change over time” to get kids to accept the “Big Idea” of evolution as fact? How about the constant equation of micro-evolution with macro-evolution? Of speculation of how things might have happened with fact? Of conflating intelligent design with Creationism?
Here’s my answer: I don’t like it. The truth is that our children suffer eternally for this outrage. Michael Zimmerman is so concerned that we exclusively teach evolution in schools, but I wonder if he’s ever considered that the majority of children who’ve been evolution as scientific fact go on to reject religious truth wholesale. What a stumbling block he places in the paths of these little ones! Can we not judge this tree by its fruit?! Meanwhile, organizations like Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research consistently demonstrate that the revealed Word of an infallible God who was there makes much better sense of the facts of the natural world.
I think we should take Charles Darwin’s advise on the matter: “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.
Why? Because such a fair presentation would expose evolution’s fatal flaws.

The Sponsors

This little gold mine of oft-repeated [and oft-refuted] militatntly pro-evolutionary hubris is SPONSORED by both the Clergy Letter Project and the Center for Inquiry. In fact, both organizations share the copyright for the site’s material.

I’m sure that I don’t need to remind you that the Center for Inquiry is a misophobic collection of skeptics and humanists who publish Free Inquiry and The Skeptical Inquirer. Founded by Paul Kurtz, co-author of The Humanist Manifesto 2 and founder of the Council for Secular Humanism, Free Inquiry’s regular columnists include misotheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.
CFI’s  website proudly states their mission:
“If the naturalistic outlook is to supplant the ancient mythological narratives of the past, it needs a new institution devoted to its articulation and dramatization to the public. The Center for Inquiry is that institution.” [bold accent mine]

They hypocritically state that : “Our purpose is to promote and defend reason, science, and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavor.” [bold accent mine] This professed promotion and defense of freedom of inquiry is a sick joke. They only want one side of this thing being taught. They don’t want anything even vaguely resembling freedom of inquiry.

You want real freedom of inquiry? Go to http://academicfreedompetition.com/. They’re interested in the real thing.

CFI also states that they are “interested in providing… alternatives to the reigning paranormal and religious belief systems of belief” and that one of the ways they’d like to do that is “through education.” Now, if by the phrase “through education” they mean by putting out pamphlets and corny propaganda websites — education via disseminating information [or misinformation as the case may be] — that’s one thing. If they mean that they intend to do so through our educational system, and that certainly seems to be the intent of TeachThemScience.org, that’s something else entirely! I do hope the Texas SBOE is paying attention to these little men behind the curtain and inquiring into their motives.

They use the Clergy Letter Project as fodder for their typical “see it’s just a few creationist nut jobs – most religious folk accept evolution and you should, too!”

Two quotes from TeachThemScience.org’s The Science & The “Controversy” page should suffice to illustrate this point:

Anti-evolutionists say that you can’t accept evolution and be religious. The very existence of The Clergy Letter Project proves this wrong. Over 12,000 clergy members around the country teach their congregations that evolution and religion get along just fine, that faith is not the fragile thing that anti-evolutionists make it out to be. Thousands of religious leaders agree with scientists that evolution is solid science.”

“Thousands of clergy around the country see evolution as compatible with faith. A small group of vocal anti-evolutionists disagree…” [bold accent mine]

An Answer for the Clergy Letter Project

The Creation Letter Project is a Biblical Creationist response to the Clergy Letter Project. While a disclaimer on TeachThemScience’s website states that “Not every statement or assertion on this site necessarily reflects the official position of either the Center for Inquiry or The Clergy Letter Project,” it’s fair to ask from a Christian standpoint why Zimmerman chooses to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in this endeavor in the first place!
As TeachThemScience proudly trumpets, the pro-evolution Clergy Letter Project currently has a list of nearly 12,000 ministers who affirm that evolution is true and that the Genesis record is a teaching myth like Aesop’s Fables. Since 2006, they have successfully promoted the celebration of an Evolution Sunday in churches throughout the world. The Clergy Letter Project is often cast in the faces of Creationists to insinuate that we are merely a fringe element of Christianity, because there has not yet been an answer to their challenge. Our silence is used as an admission of our alleged irrelevance.
It is disgusting that this modern-day Goliath gets to mock the people of God, flaunting the compromise of some of our ministers as if it represented the majority opinion, with no answer in kind.
The Creation Letter Project now provides an opportunity for Christians, clergy and churches who affirm Biblical Creationism to answer the challenge and compromise to Biblical authority that the Clergy Letter represents.

Add your name today!

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