A DUP proposal that Lisburn Council should write to local secondary and grammar schools encouraging them to teach alternative theories to evolution is set to face stiff opposition when it is debated next week.
The Corporate Services Committee agreed to a proposal by the DUP's Paul Givan that they should contact all second level schools in the Lisburn City Council area "encouraging them to teach alternative theories to evolution as the origins of the earth, such as Creation and Intelligent Design."
Mr Givan said: "I have never believed in the theory of evolution and, like many people, believe in the teaching of creation. I believe science points to creation but our schools are teaching a very narrow remit and many exclude alternative theories to evolution. I have asked the Council to write to local schools encouraging them to give equality of treatment to other theories of the origins of life and how the earth came into existence."
However, other committee members voiced their objection to the proposal.
The committee's Vice Chairman, SDLP Councillor Peter O'Hagan, said: "I think it is a dangerous road to go down for Lisburn Council to be getting involved in school curriculum.
"It is up to the head teacher of the school to implement the curriculum."
Mr O'Hagan, a former primary school head, added: "Were I the principal of a school and I got a letter like that from Lisburn City Council I would throw it in the bin.
"I don't think it is any of our business."
Ulster Unionist Alderman Jim Dillon also spoke against the proposal.
"It is not something we should be meddling in as a Council" he said. "It is totally inappropriate. If I had been the Chairman of the Committee I would have ruled it out of order."
However, his party colleague and committee chairman, Councillor Bill Gardiner-Watson, said he saw no harm in writing to the schools.
But, he continued: "The council is not in a position to direct schools or individual teachers as to what they must teach. While there may be some sympathy with the motion, having been in education all my life, and having been deputy head of a high school, I can see great difficulty in trying to enforce something that might be contrary to the will of the staff.
"The council has a right to make suggestions but they cannot enforce this or insist on it or interfere with the running of the school."
Mr Givan's proposal will be brought before the full council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night.
* The Department of Education for Northern Ireland stressed the teaching of alternative theories to evolution is a matter for individual schools.
A spokesperson said: "The revised curriculum offers scope for schools to explore alternative theories to evolution, which could include creationism, if they so wish.
"It is, however, a matter for individual schools, taking account of the needs and wishes of their pupils, parents and governors, to decide if they want to include the teaching of alternative theories."