Monday, March 4, 2013

Creationism Gets Raised In School Board Race

I read on that I've been asked to post Carl Piedmont's response to Dr. Bob Barth's editorial in Foster's. I don't see such a request in any of my various inboxes, but I will share the debate anyway.  Please send requests for posts to
Candidates Kenny Rotner, Tom Newkirk and Carl Piedmont after the Candidates Forum

Creationism probably should have been brought up at the Candidates Forum, but it didn't occur to me.   When I first saw Bob's letter, I was actually raising the issue of creationism, among others, in a post responding to Jim Kach's endorsement of Mr. Piedmont.  But I'm going to put that aside for now and address the current controversy directly.

Dr. Bob Barth is the husband of School Board Chairman Maria Barth.   Here's his letter to the editor in Foster's:

To the editor: A letter in Foster’s, Feb 27, 2013 from Carl Piedmont, Madbury, announced he is running for the Oyster River School Board. His resume is mostly unremarkable, however, one item raised a red flag for me which I would hope Mr. Piedmont might address. He informs us a son attends Trinity International University, a faith-based evangelical institution whose entire curriculum is based on belief that the old and new Testaments represent historical and scientific fact without exception. Perhaps this choice of school was purely his son’s, but before I vote for someone who may be determining my grandchildren’s curriculum, I would like to be informed of his beliefs with respect to intelligent design, creationism, evolution, evidence for man-made global warming and perhaps science in general.
I would defend without reservation any individual’s right to believe whatever he/she chooses, but that doesn’t mean I will always respect or tolerate those beliefs. This is particularly true when determining whether or not to vote for a School Board member whose agenda might include the denial of rational thought, fact-based conclusions and most science, while espousing one of thousands of ancient mythologies designed to explain the natural world as does Trinity International University. I would have to suspect that a prime motive for anyone holding such beliefs to run for School Board would be to incorporate their ideation into the curriculum- a very scary thought.

Hopefully, Mr. Piedmont can assure us that in this instance such is not the case.
Robert L. Barth

I read Dr. Barth's letter as raising a concern, not making an accusation, so I think the Oyster River Community blog headline "Barth Acuses [sic] Candidate of Religious Bias; Piedmont responds" is untrue.  Perhaps they'll fix the veracity when they fix the typo.

Here's Mr. Piedmont's response, taken from Oyster River Community blog:

On March 2, 2013, Foster's Daily Democrat posted a Letter to the Editor entitled "More Information."  You may read the letter at:
Below is my response to the misrepresentation of my character and personal attack on my family:
"Clarification for Robert Barth and Oyster River Community"
To the editor: I am Carl Piedmont, running for the Oyster River School Board. I would like to respond to a letter Robert Barth wrote questioning my motives for running for school board as it relates to my son attending Trinity International University (TIU). My son attends TIU on an athletic scholarship. TIU is Christian-based and teaches contemporary science topics including evolution.
First off, I am running because I want to serve in our community and believe in public schooling and giving children a top-notch education. I have four children, two of which are currently in the Oyster River system. Also, I was raised by teachers and respect and value the institution of education. I have 'skin in the game' and care about what happens in our schools.
As for my personal beliefs, my family belongs to the St. Thomas More Catholic parish in Durham. I believe in modern science and will not impose religious tenets into the curriculum as a school board member.  I will work together with my fellow board members to advocate for excellence in our schools and be fiscally prudent when spending our district funds.
I welcome Mr. Barth and others to learn more about me and contact me through my website:
Carl Piedmont
[Dr. Barth responds in the next post.]

I think Dr. Barth has already learned plenty from Mr. Piedmont's website.  I think Mr. Piedmont is similarly off base on Dr. Barth's intent.  I can't see anyplace where Dr. Barth attacked Mr. Piedmont's character or family.  Dr. Barth, and now presumably many voters in the district, would like clarification on Mr. Piedmont's views on creationism, especially on how his views might impact his decisions as a school board member.  These are perfectly fair questions, asked in a polite, deferential way. There was no reason to react defensively.  Mr. Piedmont's reaction concerns me because it hints at unnecessary rancor that may follow if he's elected.  But it's a sensitive issue, it appears the complaints about attacks aren't part of the newspaper letter, and this is probably Mr. Piedmont's first time running for anything, so I'm willing to let that one go. 

Mr. "Skin in the Game" did answer some of Dr. Barth's questions largely to my satisfaction.  Mr. Piedmont expressed his belief in modern science.  He said he would not impose religious tenets into the curriculum.  These are certainly positions that I think most voters in the district want to see in their school board members.  My lawyerly side tells me Mr. Piedmont left himself a bit of wiggle room, leaving open the door that sometime in the future he could claim intelligent design is modern science not a religious tenet.  But for now I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Dr. Barth also asked about Mr. Piedmont's "beliefs with respect to intelligent design, creationism, evolution, evidence for man-made global warming and perhaps science in general."  Are the candidate's personal beliefs relevant to his service on the board?  I think our experience with Mr. Kach show us that they are indeed.   So, I'm compiling a list of questions that I'll send around and try to get the candidates to answer.  I'm thinking of it as: Questions We Should Have Asked Jim Kach Before He Served.   Stay tuned, and feel free to suggest some questions in the comments.

- Dean

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