Anti-evolution Attacks on the Rise - LiveScience.com
Anti-evolution Attacks on the Rise
By Ker ThanLiveScience Staff Writerposted: 27 September 2005 12:06 am ET
Historical Court Cases Involving Evolution
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"
Over the years, people attempting to ban evolution in classrooms or to peddle creationism as science have constantly found their efforts thwarted by these sixteen words. Known respectively as the “Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause” of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, these two statements together form the foundation of religious freedom in this country.
Top 10 Missing LinksDiscoveries that have helped build the puzzle of mankind's evolution.
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Vestigal OrgansDarwin argued that useless limbs and leftover organs are evidence of evolution.
Of the many court cases involving government and religion, nine have dealt specifically with the treatment of evolution and creationism in public schools. LiveScience reviews them here:
Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)
In 1968, Susan Epperson, a high school biology teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas, was faced with a dilemma: the school district had recently adopted a new biology textbook that included sections on evolution, but according to state law, it was illegal to teach them. Yet, if Epperson didn't teach evolution, she risked disciplinary action from the school board.
Epperson sued the state, and the case was brought before the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the law violated the Establishment Clause and concluded that the primary motivation behind it was a literal reading of the Book of Genesis. In other words, the court found that there were no secular reasons for not teaching evolution, only religious ones.
Segraves v. State of California (1981)
Kelly Segraves sued the state when he learned that his three young boys were being taught evolution at school, arguing that his and his childrens' freedom of religion were being violated.
The California Superior Court disagreed, pointing out that by law, scientific class discussions about the origins of life could focus only on how life might have developed, not on what its ultimate cause might be. Therefore, the teaching of evolution shouldn't be construed as either an establishment of religion or as an infringement upon anyone's religious beliefs.
McClean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982)
Finding their efforts to outlaw the teaching of evolution constantly rebuffed by the courts, creationists tried a different tactic: If evolution can be taught in public schools, isn't it only fair, they said, that alternative theories about the origins and development of life be taught as well?
Legislators in Arkansas thought so, and passed a law requiring the “balanced treatment” of evolution with “creation science.” When the case reached a federal court, however, the judge struck down the law and ruled that creation science wasn't really science because its language was based on creationist text.
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)
If you can't beat them, join them.
That was the thinking of Louisiana legislators when they passed the state's “Creationism Act,” which made it illegal to teach evolution unless creation science was taught as well.
The Supreme Court found the act unconstitutional. By implying that a supernatural being created humankind, creation science was an impermissible endorsement of religion. The court pointed out that teachers were never forbidden from presenting alternative scientific theories before the act was passed. Therefore, the real purpose of the act was to tack creationism onto any curriculum that included evolution.
Webster v. New Lenox School District (1990)
In 1987, an Illinois social studies teacher named Ray Webster began teaching creation science to his students after disagreeing with a textbook statement that said the earth was more than four billion years old.
A student complained, and when a school superintendent warned him to stop, Webster sued, claiming that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were being violated.
The case was eventually brought before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that teaching creation science for any reason was a form of religious advocacy and that schools could prohibit teachers from teaching it.
Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994)
Turning the tables on the scientific community, high school biology teacher Ray Peloza sued the Capistrano School District in California, claimed that “evolutionism” was itself a kind of religion, one that promoted a secular worldview.
Teaching it in public schools therefore violated the First Amendment rights of both students and teachers, Peloza said, because it imposed a religion on the former and restricted the religious views of the latter.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn't agree and dismissed Peloza's claim, saying that it rested on the false assumption that evolution denied the existence of a creator. The court further ruled that a public employees right to free speech could be restricted while on the job because they are representing the government.
Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education (1997)
On the ostensible grounds of promoting critical thinking, the Tangipahoa School District in Louisiana passed a law requiring teachers to read aloud a disclaimer before teaching evolution. The disclaimer emphasized that evolution was only a “theory” and that teaching it was “not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.”
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals saw through the creationist ruse, however, and found that the disclaimer did not in fact promote critical thinking because it essentially told students not to question what they already knew. The judges further concluded that the motivation behind the disclaimer was religious and therefore unconstitutional.
LeVake v. Independent School District 656 (2001)
When Rodney LeVake, a high school biology teacher in Minnesota, began teaching the students in his 10th grade biology class “evidence both for and against the theory” of evolution, the school principal became uneasy and reassigned LeVake to the 9th grade.
LeVake sued, arguing that he was being discriminated against because of his religion and that his right to free speech was being violated in order to silence his criticisms of evolution.
The district court judge ruled that it was a public school teacher's responsibility to teach evolution according to the curriculum and that teachers could be prevented from teaching a biology course if they couldn't adequately teach evolution.
Selman v. Cobb County School District (2005)
In 2002, Georgia's Cobb County School District began placing stickers in its newly adopted high-school biology textbooks stating that: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
Five local parents sued the school district, claiming that the stickers inhibited the teaching of evolution and promoted a view about the origins of life that was faith-based.
A district court judge agreed and said the sticker "misleads students regarding the significance and value of evolution in the scientific community." The judged ruled that the stickers undermined the first amendment and that the stickers must be removed.
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