Texas Tech professor changes evolution policy

Religion News Service, Apr. 26, 2003

The Justice Department has ended its investigation of a complaint against a Texas Tech University biology professor after he stopped requiring that students believe in evolution to receive a letter of recommendation.

The department said this week that professor Michael Dini eliminated the evolution-belief requirement and replaced it with a requirement that students be able to explain the theory of evolution, The Associated Press reported.

Micah Spradling, a student at the university in Lubbock, filed the complaint, accusing Dini of refusing to write letters of recommendation based on religious beliefs of his students. Spradling said as a creationist he couldn’t state a belief in human evolution to receive a recommendation.

The Liberty Legal Institute, a religious freedom group, joined in filing the complaint, calling Dini’s policy “open religious bigotry.”

Dini’s previous policy on his Web page told students desiring a recommendation to be able to answer a question about their views on the origin of the human species.

“If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences,” he previously wrote.

Now his Web site reads: “How do you account for the scientific origin of the human species? If you will not give a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation.”

Dini later adds that the requirement “should not be misconstrued as discriminatory against anyone’s personal beliefs.”

In the fall, Spradling withdrew from Texas Tech and transferred to Lubbock Christian University. He re-enrolled at Texas Tech in the spring semester after getting a recommendation letter at the other school.

“A biology student may need to understand the theory of evolution and be able to explain it,” said Ralph Boyd Jr., the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, in a statement. “But a state-run university has no business telling students what they should or should not believe in.”

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