Agency reviews creationist research institute's place on charity list

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A state agency has delayed a determination about a creationism research institute being included on a list of charities state employees can donate to through paycheck withdrawals.

The State Policy Committee heard a complaint during a meeting Friday, lodged by integrative biology professor David Hillis, against the Institute for Creation Research being included on the State Employee Charitable Campaign list. The list includes almost 500 charities and registration for the campaign runs from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.

The committee decided to delay a decision on the case until all charities are reviewed for next year, beginning with a meeting March 23, committee chairwoman Janice McCoy said. Next year, the Sunset Advisory Commission, a legislative panel that examines state agencies to determine whether they should be revised or closed, will also be reviewing the policy committee, she said.

“The general consensus of the policy committee was that there are probably several organizations and charities that are part of our master list of charities that potentially need to be reviewed,” said McCoy, who is also chief of staff for Texas Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay.

The Institute for Creation Research conducts “scientific research within the context of biblical creation,” according to its website. The ICR did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The Dallas-based institute has been included on the campaign’s list for two years, McCoy said. By law, charities on the list are required to provide “direct or indirect health and human services,” according to the campaign’s website.

Hillis said the ICR does not meet the requirements set by law for charities on the list.

“The ICR is plain and simply a religious group that promotes only a particular religious viewpoint, and has absolutely nothing to do with ‘direct or indirect health and human services,’” Hillis said.

Hillis said he was disappointed the policy committee did not take action on the case but hopes for a resolution in the future.

“At least the problem seems to be in the open and on the table for discussion now,” he said.

Integrative biology professor Daniel Bolnick said the ICR undermines the research he does.

“My job is to understand and conduct research on how evolution happens,” Bolnick said. “I certainly have a special interest in seeing that the teaching of evolution is done properly and adheres to what we know scientifically about the subject.”

Mike Markl, who served as chairman of the committee until Oct. 31, says the requirements for a charity to be included on the list allow for a broad range of services.

“It’s more broad than I think most people would think,” said Markl, who is also payroll director of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission. “It speaks to education, an educational component. It speaks to social implementation and socialization.”

Markl, who served on the committee for seven years, said challenges to affiliates on the list have occurred infrequently. Markl recalled an example where people opposed to hunting challenged a charity that provided hunting instruction and education to young people.

The campaign raised more than $9.8 million last year. Markl said he was proud of how the campaign was able to raise money by making the process easier for state employees.

“There’s cancer research, heart research, there’s diabetes research,” Markl said. “There’s all sorts of very beneficial, helpful charities that help people in need.”

Printed on Monday, December 5th, 2011 as: Agency reviews creationist group's place on charity list