Topeka Republican activists plan to meet Saturday to consider a state party platform embracing conservative positions on social and fiscal issues, a move some moderates consider an attempt to push them out of the GOP.
The document opposes abortion, gay marriage and state-operated casinos. It also advocates school choice and alternatives to evolution in science classes. Some say the document is exclusionary, but GOP leaders dismiss the notion that it will be used to purge moderate and liberal Republicans from the party.
"It's conservative, but there's nothing out of line in that," said GOP Chairman Tim Shallenburger. "I think the Republican platform, as submitted, will be what the majority of all Republicans believe."
But, he added, "I know there are people who will disagree."
Among those disagreeing is Sue Gamble, a moderate GOP member of the State Board of Education.
"I think it's a ridiculous thing to have in the party platform," she said of the alternatives to evolution.
She opposed efforts by the board last fall to change the state's science standards to include more criticism of evolution, which created heated debate about what should be taught in science classes.
The proposed platform says Kansas students "should be allowed and encouraged to fully discuss and critique all science-based theories for the origin of life in science curricula."
Steve Abrams, chairman of the board and one of its six conservative Republican members, said he supports putting the board's views in the party platform.
"I suppose it's like other things," he said. "Eventually, you've got to take a position."
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, who is considered a moderate Republican, downplayed the controversy over the platform.
"There is a plank in the platform that says we can agree to disagree. As long as that remains in there, I'm OK," Praeger said.
Praeger said she plans to attend the party meeting, and joked, "It'll be good spectator sport."
Party leaders will gather Saturday for their annual Kansas Day meeting in Topeka. They will vote on several proposed amendments to the party constitution, as well as the platform draft.
Kansas Republicans long have been divided over abortion rights and fiscal policy, with control of the party most recently swinging to conservatives. Republicans control the Legislature and the majority of congressional and statewide offices, except for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.