Federal Judge Rules that “Fostering Critical Thinking” About Evolution has Secular Purpose, but Invalidates Cobb Co. Sticker Anyway

ATLANTA, JAN. 13 – Despite ruling that “fostering critical thinking” about evolution “is a clearly secular purpose,” and agreeing that the Cobb County, Georgia school district had secular, not religious reasons for adopting a textbook sticker dealing with evolution, a federal judge today struck down the sticker as unconstitutional.

“Given the tepid defense of the sticker presented by the school district attorney, we are not surprised by the decision,” said Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture., the nation’s leading think-tank researching scientific challenges to Darwinian evolution. “While we disagree with the invalidation of the sticker, we are pleased that the judge clearly recognized that promoting critical thinking about evolution is legitimate.”

“At the same time, this case is pretty much a side show to the real debate over science education policy right now,” said West. “The case deals with a three-sentence sticker, not an effort to improve the curriculum to include an objective discussion of scientific evidence critical of Darwin’s theory, as well as evidence that supports it. Nor does the case deal with the entirely different question of whether alternative scientific theories such as intelligent design can be taught, as the court itself noted.”

“This is a bizarre decision from the standpoint of constitutional law,” added West. “After ruling that the school board had a legitimate secular purpose for creating the textbook sticker, and acknowledging the fact that there are scientists who criticize modern evolutionary theory, the court nevertheless declared that the sticker is unconstitutional because some citizens might mistakenly believe that the sticker was intended to advance religion–even though the Judge admits 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–but because he thought some people might wrongly believe the sticker advanced religion,” said West. “It’s unfortunate that the judge apparently has such a low view of the intelligence of his fellow citizens. If the judge can figure out that the school district adopted the sticker to advance the legitimate secular purpose of promoting critical discussion of evolution, why couldn’t the citizens of Cobb County?”

The textbook sticker struck down today reads: “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.”

The future of the case is uncertain, but an appeal by the Cobb Co. School District to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals remains a possibility.