FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CLOSES RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION INQUIRY
AT TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced that it was closing its inquiry into complaints by Texas Tech students that a biology professor's medical school recommendation policy, which required affirmation of a personal belief in evolution, constituted religious discrimination. The decision was based on the professor's replacement of the affirmation requirement with a requirement that students simply be able to explain the scientific theory of evolution.
The Justice Department received complaints alleging that Professor Michael Dini had discriminated, based on religion, against several students through his written recommendation policy. The policy, set forth on a Texas Tech website, stated that to receive a medical school recommendation, the student had to meet three criteria. These were to get an "A" grade in one of Professor Dini's courses, get to know him personally through working as a teaching assistant or extracurricular activities, and "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to the question: "How do you think the human species originated?"
In response to complaints by students, the Justice Department requested information about the school's policies regarding letters of recommendation. Professor Dini subsequently changed the third criteria on the website, dropping the requirement that students affirm a personal belief in evolution. Instead, he now requires them to be able to explain the scientific theory of evolution. In light of this change, the Department of Justice has closed its inquiry into the matter.
"The new policy rightly recognizes that students don't have to give up their religious beliefs to be good doctors or good scientists," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. "A biology student may need to understand the theory of evolution and be able to explain it. But a state-run university has no business telling students what they should or should not believe in. If the separation of church and state is to mean anything, it must surely mean that such matters of conscience are beyond the reach of government inquiry."