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April 18, 2014
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Election2014: House Republican candidates differ on teaching of evolution

The two Republicans vying for the Oregon House District 2 seat have similar views on several issues, but differ on others, including whether creationism should be taught in public schools.

Dallas Heard, 29, of Myrtle Creek told The News-Review Editorial Board on Thursday that school boards should have authority to offer students the option of learning about creationism.

He said evolution also should be taught in an elective class, but not in mandatory science courses. “I think you have to allow Americans to make their own decisions,” Heard said.

Heard made his remarks as he and his opponent in the May 20 GOP primary, Mark Garcia, 48, of Myrtle Creek, talked about education.

Heard said he favored local control and was asked whether a school board’s authority should extend to matters such as including creationism in science classes.

Garcia said he is a Christian but doesn’t “accept creationism as a scientific fact” and said it should not be taught in public school science classes.

“Creationism is a belief, evolution is science,” Garcia said. He later added: “If someone wants to get that kind of education, they can go to churches.”

A graduate of Umpqua Valley Christian School, Heard said learning about creationism as a student didn’t diminish his education.

He said he doesn’t view the separation of church and state clause in the Constitution as requiring government to purge itself of all ties with religion.

The Oregon Legislature in 2001 adopted standards requiring evolution be taught at public schools.

Teachers may teach about explanations of life on earth, including creationism, in comparative religion or social studies classes, according to the Oregon Department of Education’s website.

Teachers are admonished not to ridicule a student’s religious explanation for life on earth. But schools can’t refuse to teach evolution to avoid giving offense.

Garcia, a self-employed information technology consultant, or Heard, who owns a landscaping construction company, will represent the Republican Party in the November election.

Democrats Kerry Atherton and Natasha Bjornsen also are contending for the seat held by Roseburg Republican Tim Freeman, who’s giving up the office to run for Douglas County commissioner.

Garcia and Heard were united in their criticism of the Common Core State Standards, an initiative to make national standards in English and math uniform at every grade level. The National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers initiated the effort, which the state of Oregon has embraced.

Heard said control of education should rest with parents and teachers, not the governor and president.

Although criticizing the reach of uniform national standards, Garcia credited President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation with focusing attention on improving education.

Garcia said he supports the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, which would transport liquefied natural gas through Douglas County to Coos Bay for overseas export. He called the public interest paramount, adding that the infrastructure and jobs are needed.

Heard said he too supports the jobs that would be created by the pipeline. But he said he plans to meet with pipeline developers to learn more about how they will treat landowners before firming up his position on the pipeline.

•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at cgeorge@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Apr 29, 2014 07:55PM Published Apr 21, 2014 09:08AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.