COPE, Inc., et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education, et al.
In the Federal District Court of Kansas

Important Case Documents in Chronological Order:

COPE v. Board of Education (the Complaint) (September 26, 2013)

Defendants' Memorandum in Support of their Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (December 5, 2013)

Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (January 27, 2014)

Defendants’ Reply In Support of Their Motion to Dismiss (April 17, 2014)

On May 6, 2014 Plaintiffs moved the Court for leave to file the following Surreply to the preceeding Reply:


Memorandum and Order dismissing the Complaint. (December 2, 2014)

On December 2, 2014 the Court dismissed the Complaint on the ground that parents and students are not sufficiently "injured" by the State Board's adoption of a plan to establish a non-theistic religious worldview in the children. Plaintiffs plan to appeal. See COPE's discussion of the Court's ruling in its December 19, 2014 press release.

COPE Press Release on the Complaint (September 26, 2013)

On September 26, 2013 Citizens for Objective Public Education, Inc. (COPE) filed suit in federal court against the Kansas State Board of Education and the Kansas State Department of Education. The Complaint was filed in Topeka, Kansas, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Other plaintiffs in the suit include eight families with children enrolled in Kansas public schools and a family that pays taxes in support of Kansas schools.

The Complaint alleges that the Kansas State Board’s implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and related A K-12 Framework for Science Education (the “F&S”), adopted by the Board on June 11, 2013, “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview” in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Attached to the Complaint are analyses that COPE released (on June 1, 2012, and January 29, 2013) objecting to the Standards (NGSS) and the Framework upon which the Standards are based. After the final version of NGSS was released last April, COPE issued a Press Release (April 21, 2013) which reflects COPE’s recommendation against adoption of the Framework and Standards.

At State Board meetings on May 14, 2013, and June 11, 2013, representatives of COPE urged the Board to reject the new Standards and invited the Board to meet with COPE to discuss concerns about the Standards. The Board did not respond to these requests.

Kenneth Willard, a State Board member, urged the Board to delay action on NGSS until they had investigated COPE’s concerns. On June 11 Mr. Willard cautioned the Board: “I fear that adopting them [the NGSS Standards] in Kansas will only lead to a deeply divisive controversy, and even a possible constitutional challenge.” Nevertheless the Board proceeded to take a vote without looking into the matter, and the Framework and Standards (F&S) were approved by an 8-2 margin.

The Complaint claims that the F&S lead students to ask “ultimate religious questions” like “where do we come from?” Rather than objectively informing children of the actual state of our scientific knowledge about these questions in an age-appropriate manner, the F&S lead them “to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic answers.” This and numerous other deceptive strategies alleged in the complaint amount to a prescription for indoctrinating student acceptance of a materialistic/atheistic worldview by the time they reach middle school.

The Complaint alleges that the principal tool of indoctrination is the concealed use of an Orthodoxy known as methodological naturalism or scientific materialism. It holds that explanations of the cause and nature of natural phenomena may only use natural, material or mechanistic causes, and must assume that supernatural and teleological or design conceptions of nature are invalid.

The Orthodoxy is an atheistic faith-based doctrine that has been candidly explained by Richard Lewontin, a prominent geneticist and evolutionary biologist, as follows:

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." [Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons, 44 N.Y. Rev. of Books 31 (Jan. 9, 1997) (emphasis added)]

The Complaint alleges that an implementation of the F&S will cause the state to infringe on the religious rights of parents, students and taxpayers under the Establishment, Free Exercise, Speech and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

It asks the court to enjoin the implementation of the F&S or, in the alternative, to enjoin the teaching of origins science in grades K through 8 and in grades 9 through 12 unless measures are taken to teach it objectively so that the effect of the instruction is religiously neutral.

The Complaint is focused on teaching children about the actual state of our scientific knowledge about where we come from, instead of only a materialistic/atheistic view.

• COPE's discussion of the Court's ruling in its December 19, 2014 press release:



Fifteen months ago, on September 26, 2013, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), 15 parents, 21 children and two taxpayers filed a Complaint in the Federal District Court of Kansas. The suit seeks to enjoin the implementation of all or certain aspects of an 850 page Next Generation Science Standards Policy adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education on June 11, 2013.

The Complaint alleges that the Policy seeks to establish in all children in the state of Kansas a non-theistic religious worldview in the guise of science education in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The Complaint alleges that the worldview is to be established by teaching it in a comprehensive and progressive manner, through a program of indoctrination that begins at age 5 in Kindergarten and then continues over the entire 13 years of the child's public education.

It further alleges that the Policy seeks to establish the worldview using a variety of deceptive devices and methods. One method is to cause children to ask ultimate religious questions about the cause and nature of life and to then lead them to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic explanations through the use of a concealed Orthodoxy called Methodological Naturalism.

The theistic parents claim, among other things, that adoption and implementation of the policy injures them by violating their rights to direct the religious education of their children and by causing their children to accept a religious worldview contrary to their own and to one which the parents seek to establish in them. The children further claim that the adoption and implementation of the Policy violates their rights to not be indoctrinated by the state to accept a particular religious view, and particularly a non-theistic religious worldview.

On December 2, 2014, the Federal District Court of Kansas dismissed the Complaint on the grounds that although the Complaint alleges a religious injury to the parents and students, the injury does not rise to a level that is legally sufficient to give them "standing" or the right to complain in Federal Courts under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The First and Fourteenth Amendments forbid, among other things, any Federal, state or local entity, including a State Board of Education, to adopt a policy respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging the free exercise thereof.

The Court's decision is based primarily on the determination that the injury to Plaintiffs is nothing more than an "abstract stigmatic injury," because the 850 page Policy adopted by the state board is not "binding" on the Kansas Public schools.

Plaintiffs believe the Court's ruling should be reversed due to errors of law and fact. The Policy is in fact binding as the law requires schools to develop curriculum that teaches standards adopted by the State Board.

Furthermore, Plaintiffs' injuries as alleged in the Complaint include injuries other than stigmatic psychological injuries acknowledged by the Court. The additional assaults on the rights of the parents and children alleged in the Complaint and ignored by the Court amount to serious personal injuries that far exceed the very low injury thresholds established by the Tenth Circuit. A Policy of the state to injure Plaintiffs' children through a plan designed to indoctrinate them for 13 years into accepting an atheistic worldview is frightening to a parent who believes the lives and well-being of their children depend on their having and sustaining a theistic religious faith. The injury is especially acute for those parents who lack the knowledge and resources necessary to provide an educational alternative.

Accordingly, COPE and its attorneys will seek to have the ruling reversed on an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A copy of the Court's Memorandum and Order may be viewed here.


Without opposition from Plaintiffs, the Court also ruled that two named entities established by the State - the Kansas State Board of Education and the Kansas Department of Education, are immune from suit under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court implicitly recognized that although the entities are immune from suit, the present and future individual members of the State Board and the Commissioner of the Department of Education are not immune. Accordingly, when the decision is reversed on the issue of standing, the suit may effectively continue against the Board and the Department without the entities.

[ COPE's December 19, 2014 press release in PDF format ]