ICR tries again in suit over grad “science ed” degree in Texas

Unwilling to deal with the hilariously hideous complaint that was filed initially by the Institute for Creation Research in their attempt to get accreditation for their graduate degree program in “science education,” the judge ordered ICR to file an amended complaint, and then a second amended complaint, with a maximum page limit of 20 pages.

The second amended complaint has now been filed, and it is another doozy (although, this time, a shorter doozy).

[added Saturday 6/22: see Comment #5 below by Anton Mates. It turns out that I had missed their first attempt at an amended complaint in early June.
Anton maintains a great page, with links to ALL the documents, at
http://ncseweb.org/creationism/legal/institute-creation-research-graduate-school-v-paredes-et-al .]

One thing a lawyer wants people (especially the judge) to see in their pleadings is that the work was done with care. How’s this for starters?:

PLAINTIFF’S 2nd AMENDED COMPLAINT,
(AMENDED PER ORDER OF 7-29-2007)
[Oops—should be 7-29-2009]

On the first page, they object, but then signal their compliance with the judge’s order:

Although plaintiff gently objects to the repleading orders herein, if needed to save prior notice-pleading content [whatever that means], plaintiff hereby complies therewith.

Unless noted otherwise, any and all manner of emphases will be kept as in the original. As Timothy Sandefur notes in a good 8-paragraph overview on Panda’s Thumb,

There are italics, boldface, ALLCAPS, and all sorts of different combinations herein, of course. There are delightful spelling errors (“advertizes”), rhetorical flourishes (“as if with a ‘scarlet letter’”), and neologisms (I can’t decide if “favoritistically” or “applicational bounds” is my favorite). Of course it quotes the Bible. It even has rhetorical questions! In a complaint!

(Even the type quality is telling. Instead of electronic conversion from word processor to pdf, the complaint apparently was printed out and then scanned into a pdf at about FAX quality resolution. My acrobat program politely told me that there was no text, but only image, and asked if I would like to have OCR performed on it. Although the lawsuit looks like a better candidate for CPR, I told Acrobat to go ahead and recognize the text. Shortly after starting on that task, Acrobat popped up with “What the f*ck is this supposed to be!!!?” [Actually, I made that last part up; but you can click here for the pdf, with OCR.]

As compiled by Sandefur, the complaint

seems to allege that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board violates the monopolies clause of the state Constitution, the Fourth Amendment’s searches and seizures clause, the due process clause, the equal protection clause, the freedom of speech clause, the freedom of the press clause, the freedom of association, the Texas Government Code, laws against defamation, the public emoluments clause, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, anti-discrimination laws, the Texas Education Code, and even the “no titles of nobility” clause of the U.S. Constitution! The complaint even argues that for the state of Texas to regulate higher education “interferes with interstate commerce” (emphasis original, natch).

But I think the nub of their complaint is found in paragraph 26, where they say

The main problem, here, is viewpoint discrimination: using the power of government, including government gate-keeping of the academic market’s “forum”, to disfavor creation science as an academic viewpoint.

The problem with their argument is that Texas is doing nothing to “disfavor” their academic viewpoint. They can offer their program, with a masters degree, if they want to; they just can’t represent it as an accredited program in science education. They can teach what they want to about their viewpoint on creation and the flood, etc. While they might claim that their “disfavored viewpoint” includes the viewpoint that their beliefs on such subjects are part of the natural sciences such as physics and biology, that is simply false as a matter of fact, and not a matter of viewpoint or opinion. 

Their language is replete with “evidences” of their lack of contact with the reality of the natural sciences. For example:

25. Notwithstanding Commissioner Paredes personal view of the universe’s origins, ICRGS holds its institutional academic viewpoint in good faith, buttressed by many scientific evidences.

They claim:

28. Unjustly, defendants (as officials of THECB) have effectively treated ICRGS’s M.S. curriculum as a non- “science education” curriculum, due to ICR’s openly creationist viewpoint.

First, we might note the italicized “M.S. curriculum,” as if the S in those initials is itself “an evidence” that this is notnon-science.” The point though is that whatever their viewpoint on creation, they can’t get accreditation for a science education program if that’s not what they are offering. In fact, one of the defendants in this lawsuit is “Whit” Riter (appointed Chair of the THECB by Rick Perry), who appears to be a Biblical-literalist believer in creationism, himself. Whatever be the case with Riter, it is certainly the case that a believer in creationism, without “disfavoring” or even disagreeing with such beliefs at all, can recognize that a degree program whose content is the teaching of creationism does not qualify for accreditation as a degree program in science education.

My post on the initial complaint includes the image of one (rather hilarious) paragraph as an example. While the tone and rhetoric are a bit tamer this time, the logic is no better. This time I’ll include a couple of page-length examples. The first displays the problem addressed above, in attributing the Board’s action to the personal beliefs of the participants about creation:

page 7 of ICR's amended complaint

Paragraphs 38-39 display the outlandish lunacy of their legal argument:

paragraph 38

p14 (paragraphs 38-39)Aside from the bizarre treatment of a masters degree as something like a title of nobility, note that these paragraphs actually reflect the fact that THECB is only saying that to get accreditation ICR would need to go through the process of having its program evaluated by the private body that Texas relies on for such evaluations.  SACS has established procedures for programs to be reviewed by the disciplines and professions representing the fields in which degrees are being offered. There’s nothing to stop ICR from having ABHE review its program as a Bible Studies program, but if ABHE recommends accreditation for programs in science, or math, or medicine, for that matter, that’s not what Texas accepts as the basis for accreditation.

[added Saturday August 22
Again thanks to Anton (Comment #5 below), we learn that Texas filed a speedy (August 17) Answer to this Complaint. Here's from Defendants' answer (and I've never seen anything quite like this in legal pleadings before), including, in toto, what Texas has to say in answer to the four paragraphs from the complaint (¶¶ 20, 21, 38, & 39) that I have reproduced above:

No response to either of these documents is required. However, if responses are required, Defendants deny the legal conclusions, non-factual statements, and all assertions contained in the Original Petition and SOAH pleadings. These numbered paragraphs and titles correspond to the paragraphs and titles within the body of Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint. . . .

20. The averments contained in this paragraph are argument to which no response is required. To the extent this paragraph contains factual averments, Defendants are without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to their truth.

21. Defendants deny the factual averments contained in this paragraph. The remaining averments in this paragraph are either argument or legal conclusions to which no response is required.    . . . .

38. Deny.

39. Deny.

Defendants use the single word "Deny" in answer to fifteen of the numbered paragraphs in the 2nd Amended Complaint. The single word "Admit" is used in answer to the ICR's paragraph 13, which avers:

13. This THECB process was protested via ICRGS's SOAH petition, formerly posted on the THECB's website ("SOAH petition"), a document of 755 pages including its appendices A-Z, which SOAH petition's contents is incorporated herein by reference as if attached thereto.

(Could be a slight misstep here. There's no problem "admitting" that they protested via those documents, and that they posted the 755-page document on their website; but you don't want or need to admit that which contents herein and thereto are now "incorporated" and thus part of this complaint. No need to worry, though: The judge who imposed a 20-page limit on this complaint is not going to accept that contention!)

]
Click here for previous posts on this blog regarding ICR.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted August 21, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    If ICR succeeds, maybe I can finally get my TimeCube degree recognized.

  2. Fitz
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I love that they feel the need to tell the court what the 1st amendment is.

    • Posted August 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      I was also amused by that.

      I think it may signify something else, though, now that you’ve reminded me.

      In my post on their first complaint, I wrote,

      The complaint is full of wild, sophistic rhetoric — so wild that it looks like it was written for some other purpose, without any regard for actually trying to win something in court.

      Of course they don’t need to tell the judge what the 1st amendment is. But is the judge really the audience they’re writing for, or could this whole lawsuit be part of some grander drama, for some other audience? (I started to add “or even Audience”; but I guess He would also not need to be told what the 1st amendment is.)

  3. Posted August 21, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I want a Masters for the Growing/Construction of TARDISes, dammit!

    • Posted August 21, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Well, if you actually do grow/construct a working (living?) TARDIS (which is arguably more than the Doctor himself was ever able has ever been able to manage), I certainly would think it’s worth a Ph.D., plus a Nobel prize, and even one of those “titles of nobility” that the ICR brief talks about (something like “Lord of Time,” perhaps?).

      But if you just sit around with a handful of other would-be Gallifreyans, sharing “evidences” for believing in such things, well …

  4. Posted August 22, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Hi Tony – long time lurker, first time commenter…

    I just gotta say this is hilarious! I am a clinical lab scientist who now studies law and works for an attorney who was a lab scientist in his previous career – this made me laugh until my sides hurt!

    –BG

    There are 10 kinds of people in the world…those who understand binary and those who don’t

  5. Posted August 22, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth noting that this is actually the ICR’s second amended complaint…that is, it’s their third try at writing down a satisfactory complaint. The court already told them to rewrite it once, and the ICR responded with this. Apparently that wasn’t good enough.

    The Texas attorney general has already objected to this most recent complaint on behalf of the THECB, saying:

    “The Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint fails to comply with the Rules and the Court’s order. Specifically, the complaint is replete with argument but contains very few factual allegations to which Defendants can respond. More specifically, the complaint contains no allegations regarding the use of any standards the Defendants allegedly misapplied to deny Plaintiffs a certificate of authority, no facts regarding the alleged “unbalanced panel” the Defendants allegedly, illegally appointed, and no facts regarding how the State of Texas’s accreditation system amounts to an unconstitutional monopoly. Defendants therefore object to Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint.”

    So who knows? Maybe the judge will have to personally interview the ICR lawyer and write the complaint himself.

  6. Posted August 22, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Anton,

    Somehow I missed that first amended complaint. I did see “2nd Amended Complaint” in the title & wondered about a First Amended Complaint, but then I guess I thought I could not have missed anything substantial, and who knows what this guy means by “2nd Amended” anyway? His writing is so bad I guess I thought “2nd Amended” might mean “2nd, Amended.”

    Looking at the date, I now see that the 1st Amended complaint came the week that I was turning in my grades for the Spring Semester, so that’s probably how I missed it.

    That won’t happen again (and here’s the plug)–since then I’ve signed onto your weekly email update. I’ll just paste in the info here for both the email and the RSS:

    Subscribe here to Evolution Education Update, NCSE’s free weekly e-newsletter with the latest in the creationism/evolution controversy.
    RSS Feed


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  1. [...] Creationist “grad school” sues over Texas “science education” degree accreditation Added August 2009: Refusing to deal with the Complaint discussed below, the judge ordered that a new complaint must be filed before the lawsuit could proceed. Click here for the ICR’s second amended complaint. [...]

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