SEATTLE -- A federal appeals court should overrule a lower court decision restricting the information a school district can provide students about evolution, say experts with the Discovery Institute, the nation's leading research organization that favors teaching students the full range of scientific views relating to biological and chemical evolution.
Earlier this year, a federal district court judge struck down a textbook sticker relating to evolution adopted by the Cobb County, Georgia school board. The sticker informed students that the evidence for evolution "should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."
"Contrary to claims from the ACLU, the district court judge actually ruled that the sticker fulfilled a legitimate secular purpose," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. "The judge even acknowledged that there are scientists who criticize modern evolutionary theory. But in a truly bizarre ruling, he then declared the sticker unconstitutional because some citizens might mistakenly believe that the sticker was intended to advance religion--even though the judge admitted it wasn't."
"In other words, the judge struck down this sticker not because it was designed to advance religion--he ruled that it wasn't," added West, “but because he thought some people might wrongly believe the sticker advanced religion. This wrongly substitutes the judge’s subjective version of the ‘average citizen’s’ perception of our Constitution for the actual safeguards of the First Amendment itself.”
"The lower-court decision amounts to a judicial gag order on school districts when it comes to evolution," added Casey Luskin, an attorney with Discovery Institute. "The court overstepped its proper bounds in trying to censor the presentation of legitimate secular information about evolution. The decision is dangerous to democracy and has chilling implications for the free speech rights of scientists, educators, and citizens who are skeptical of Darwin's theory. It needs to be overturned."
The appeal in the case of Cobb County School District vs. Selman is scheduled to be heard by a panel of judges from the federal eleventh circuit court of appeals in Atlanta on Thursday, December 15, 2005.
Following is the complete text of the disputed textbook sticker: "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."