Georgia 'creator' language creates controversy

ATLANTA - A new curriculum that encourages Georgia teachers to promote ''respect for the creator'' is drawing criticism that it violates the separation of church and state.

''Respect for the creator'' is one of 27 traits that schools must encourage as part of a character curriculum that takes effect this year. Among the other traits: courage, patriotism, citizenship, honesty, fairness, kindness, tolerance, punctuality and cleanliness.

In north Georgia's Lumpkin County, the school board voted this week not to teach the creator curriculum until the state attorney general issues an opinion on whether the requirement violates the Constitution.

People for the American Way, a national civil-liberties group, said it may sue Lumpkin County and the state over the language. The group is representing parents of two Lumpkin schoolchildren who object to the language.

''The government can't tell citizens they must have respect for God or the creator or whatever name the government wants to use,'' said Judith Schaeffer, deputy legal counsel for the group.

Legislators who approved the character law in 1997 said the creator curriculum was acceptable because it does not specify a religion.

''It allows everybody to look at it through all different theories of creation,'' said state Sen. Richard Marable, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. '''Respect for the creator' is very open.''

The law allows local school systems to decide how best to encourage the character traits.

Lumpkin School Superintendent David Luke said county lawyers are scrambling to put together a formal request for an opinion on the ''creator'' language from the state attorney general.

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said there was no way to predict which way Baker might rule.

School begins Aug. 14 in Lumpkin and many other counties.


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