Topeka — State Board of Education member Connie Morris has issued a newsletter that criticizes evolution as an "age-old fairytale" and describes board members who disagree with her as liberal, rude, disruptive and phony.
Morris, a conservative Republican from St. Francis in western Kansas, on Monday declined to speak with reporters about the taxpayer-funded newsletter, but she was confronted about it by one of the board members whom she criticized - Carol Rupe, a moderate Republican from Wichita.
"You really hurt my feelings," Rupe said to Morris after a board committee meeting at the State Department of Education. The two briefly hugged, but Rupe was still emotional.
"She can say what she wants about her own position, but I don't think it's fair to say that about me," Rupe said.
On two occasions, reporters asked Morris to comment on the newsletter, but both times Morris said she didn't have time because she had to attend meetings in the education building.
The blistering, four-page letter under state Board of Education letterhead was brought to the attention of the media by board member Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka, whose district includes Douglas County.
Wagnon, who has often opposed the conservative side of the board, said Morris' comments were hypocritical.
"She has clothed herself in a certain kind of righteousness and refused to admit she is involved in gutterball politics," he said.
The newsletter focuses on the recent fight about science standards in Kansas schools. The 6-4 conservative majority on the board favors standards that criticize evolution.
In the newsletter, Morris says she is a Christian who believes in the literal depiction of the origin of life contained in Genesis. She said "poor science" insists it has all the answers "with anti-God contempt and arrogance."
Evolution in Kansas
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- 6News video: Film explores evolution circus (01-03-06)
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- 6News video: Mirecki resigns from KU department post (12-07-05)
- Education board to revisit debate over evolution (02-11-07)
- As old board departs, new evolution stance takes shape (12-14-06)
- Biologist speaks for intelligent design (12-08-06)
- Cultures clash in Democratic primary (07-06-06)
- Education department spokesman leaves job (06-15-06)
- Evolution, religion comments put heat on department spokesman (05-26-06)
- KU profs support evolution skepticism (02-21-06)
- Science teachers pan new standards (02-14-06)
- 'Dodos' circling around I.D. (01-04-06)
- Attorneys in I.D. case spread message (01-04-06)
- Professor blasts KU, sheriff's investigation (12-10-05)
- Kansas ranks last in science (12-08-05)
- Discovery Institute
- Evolution timeline: Events related to the Kansas controversy
- U.S. District Court Ruling in Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District (PDF)
- Center for Science and Culture: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism
- Parody: Intelligent Design Society of Kansas
- Mirecki press release (.pdf)
- More evolution coverage
- LJWorld.com's Evolution in Kansas coverage
She said supporters of evolution were in "panic mode." She described Wagnon as a liberal and Sue Gamble, a moderate Republican from Shawnee, as "continually most disruptive and rude."
She said her favorite "blooper" during board debate on evolution came from Rupe who said "with psuedo-innocence" that she was mystified by opposition to science.
During a hearing last month on the science standards, Morris said opponents of evolution presented extraordinary testimony.
"In short, Darwin's theory of evolution is biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically and etc. 'wildly' and 'utterly impossible.'"
She said mainstream scientists who boycotted the meeting acted cowardly, and she criticized the media.
She asked her constituents to pray for the conservatives on the board as they fought liberals.
"As we forge every bit of our being for the battles ahead, I humbly ask for your prayers. It's certain you have plenty for which to beseech the Lord - but if you think of us, please request strength, wisdom and courage on our behalf," she wrote.
Morris also wrote about the recent order by the Kansas Supreme Court to increase school funding by $285 million by July.
She said schools didn't need any funding above the $142 million that Republicans had approved, and she was disturbed that the Legislature had increased funding for non-English speaking students.
Morris has said before she doesn't believe the state should educate the children of illegal immigrants in Kansas.
Wagnon said it was inappropriate for taxpayers to be paying for the kind of message Morris had in her newsletter.
"It's partisan. I think she has crossed the line," he said.
During the full board's meeting this week, Wagnon said he would bring up the issue of newsletter expenses.
Education Department officials said they did not know how much the newsletter cost because they didn't know how many people received it and Morris had not turned in a reimbursement form for it yet. Because it mentions the June 3 state Supreme Court decision on school finance, it had to have been sent recently.