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Web Extra Thursday, January 13, 2005

Evolution disclaimers unconstitutional

Earlier today, a federal judge in Atlanta, Ga., issued a ruling on the evolution disclaimer stickers placed in Cobb County science textbooks in 2002. He said that the disclaimers, which state that evolution is "a theory, not a fact," are unconstitutional and should be removed immediately from all texts into which it has been placed.

Several parents of students in Cobb County schools, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought a lawsuit that came to trial last November (see Geotimes Web Extra, Nov. 12). They claimed that the disclaimers placed inside the covers of middle and high school science texts violate the principle of separation of church and state, and that the singling out of evolution is the school system's attempt to inject religion into science class.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper agreed, saying in his 44-page ruling that the disclaimers violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He said that the stickers send a message that the school board endorses "the viewpoint of Christian fundamentalists and creationists," and that the school board has "improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position."

Cooper said that although he saw no evidence that the school board was directly trying to promote religion, the "informed, reasonable observer would perceive the school board to be aligning itself with proponents of religious theories of origin." He also said that his ruling only resolves the legal dispute and does not resolve whether science and religion are mutually exclusive and that he takes no position on the origin of the species. His ruling, he said, would not decide how public school teachers should teach evolution, an ongoing battle in many states.

Megan Sever

Links:

CNN news story
Atlanta Journal-Constitution news story
"More challenges to evolution," Web Extra, Geotimes, Nov. 12, 2004
"Evolution opponents score in Georgia," Geotimes, November 2002

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