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Legal controversy

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Legal controversy regarding religious creationism and the place of these beliefs in society has become commonplace around the globe. Numerous court battles have addressed the issue of whether it is lawful to teach creation theory or intelligent design in public schools (see trials). Some countries, such as Australia wherein Christians represent on overwhelming majority of the population (>67%)[1], now require the teaching of materialistic evolution as a scientific fact. These educational requirements are even imposed by law upon private Christian schools, which are quickly brought to task if their curriculum deviates from these federal mandates.[2] The loss of the right to teach science from the creation worldview in countries made-up largely of Christians should be a wake-up call to others like the United States which are on the brink of losing similar religious freedoms.

Creation in public school

There is perhaps no other place where the legal controversy over creation is more apparent than in the U.S. public school system (see Anticreation in public schools). A country with a solid Christian heritage has reached a status where teachers have become fearful of exposing their faith in the workplace. This movement is in no small part due to the activities of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which quickly move to sue any school district where it is reported that a teacher is challenging Darwinism or introducing intelligent design concepts in the classroom. Numerous examples have also been documented where educators were discriminated against in academia simply because of their faith in God, even when their beliefs never made it into the classroom.[3]

Progress has also been furthered by the National Academy of Sciences, which is predominated by atheism and advices U.S. policy makers regarding science education. To this end, the NAS strongly discourages the teaching of creationism and urges teachers to define science in terms of philosophical naturalism (see: Science, Evolution, and Creationism). Government policy is now also in place to discourage those who believe in God from receiving teaching certificates.[4]


Creation vs. evolution trials

Main Article: Creation vs. evolution

Since the 1950s, evolutionists have had a virtual monopoly in public education. This was not the result of legislation or Supreme Court rulings, however. There have been no laws or Supreme Court rulings prohibiting the teaching of creationism in schools. The cases to date have revolved around efforts by creationists to prohibit the teaching of evolution (in the Scopes Trial and others), and to require that creation science must at least be taught alongside evolution in public schools. These efforts were halted by the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause in Edwards vs. Aguillard. But none of these cases prohibited teachers from teaching creationism or intelligent design in schools.

Bill Honig and the State of California versus the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School Early in 1992, the Institute for Creation Research won a stunning victory in Federal Court when the state of California attempted to close the ICR Graduate School. Honig previously recruited prominent evolutionists to produce California's new "science framework" for teaching science in the public schools. This document, aggressively integrated evolution throughout the entire curriculum, and has led to similar documents across the country. ICR's application for the state's newly mandated "re-approval" was rejected and Honig demanded that ICR take all creation teaching out of their classrooms despite being a private Christian school. The precedent-setting ruling which ICR received benefits all Christian schools.

Edwards v. Aguillard: Supreme Court Decision (Audio file of oral argument available) - Louisiana's "Creationism Act" forbid the teaching of the theory of evolution in public elementary and secondary schools unless accompanied by instruction in the theory of creation science. Appellees, who include Louisiana parents, teachers, and religious leaders, challenged the Act's constitutionality in Federal District Court, seeking an injunction and declaratory relief. The District Court granted summary judgment to appellees, holding that the Act violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Epperson v. Arkansas A public school biology teacher in Arkansas, faced with the dilemma that if she used a new textbook she would presumably teach a chapter therein on the Darwinian theory of evolution and thus be subject to dismissal for committing a criminal offense in violation of the Arkansas statute prohibiting any teacher in the state schools from teaching such theory, instituted an action in the state Chancery Court seeking a declaration that such statute was void and enjoining the state officials from dismissing her for violation of the statute. A parent of children attending the public schools intervened in support of the action. The Chancery Court held that the statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but on appeal the Supreme Court of Arkansas reversed, sustaining the statute as an exercise of the state's power to specify the curriculum in public schools, while expressing no opinion on whether the statute prohibited any explanation of the theory of evolution or merely prohibited teaching that the theory was true.

Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education In 1997, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana rejected a policy requiring teachers to read aloud a disclaimer whenever they taught about evolution, ostensibly to promote "critical thinking". Noting that the policy singled out the theory of evolution for attention, that the only "concept" from which students were not to be "dissuaded" was "the Biblical concept of Creation", and that students were already encouraged to engage in critical thinking, the Court wrote that, "In mandating this disclaimer, the School Board is endorsing religion by disclaiming the teaching of evolution in such a manner as to convey the message that evolution is a religious viewpoint that runs counter to ... other religious views". Besides addressing disclaimer policies, the decision is noteworthy for recognizing that curriculum proposals for "intelligent design" are equivalent to proposals for teaching "creation science". (Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Education, No. 94-3577 (E.D. La. Aug. 8, 1997). On August 13, 1999, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision; on June 19, 2000, the Supreme Court declined to hear the School Board's appeal, thus letting the lower court's decision stand.

Karl Priest vs. the Kanawha County Board of Education A mathematics teacher at Andrew Jackson Middle School filed a grievance seeking an answer from the Kanawha County Board of Education regarding what legal protection was available to him if he criticized evolution in his classroom. The judge confirmed teachers have the right to criticize evolutionism in West Virginia.

Lemon vs. Kurtzman Actions challenging constitutionality of state aid to, or for the benefit of, nonpublic schools since it involves excessive entanglement of state with church.

Rodney LeVake vs. Minnesota Independent School District In 2000, District Court Judge Bernard E. Borene dismissed the case of Rodney LeVake vs Independent School District 656, et al. (Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum, Court File Nr. CX-99-793, District Court for the Third Judicial District of the State of Minnesota [2000]). High school biology teacher LeVake had argued for his right to teach "evidence both for and against the theory" of evolution. The school district considered the content of what he was teaching and concluded that it did not match the curriculum, which required the teaching of evolution. Given the large amount of case law requiring a teacher to teach the employing district's curriculum, the judge declared that LeVake did not have a free speech right to override the curriculum, nor was the district guilty of religious discrimination.

Mcleal vs. Arkansas Board of Education On March 19, 1981, the Governor of Arkansas signed into law an Act which give balanced treatment to creation-science and to evolution-science. On May 27, 1981, this suit was filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Act because it is an establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment to the Constitution, it violates a right to academic freedom and the Act is impermissibly vague and thereby violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs include the resident Arkansas Methodist, Episcopal, Roman Catholic and African Methodist Episcopal Churches, Southern Baptist and Presbyterian, as well as several persons who sue as parents and next friends of minor children attending Arkansas public schools. In 1982, in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, a federal court held that a "balanced treatment" statute violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Arkansas statute required public schools to give balanced treatment to "creation-science" and "evolution-science". In a decision that gave a detailed definition of the term "science", the court declared that "creation science" is not in fact a science. The court also found that the statute did not have a secular purpose, noting that the statute used language peculiar to creationist literature in emphasizing origins of life as an aspect of the theory of evolution. While the subject of life's origins is within the province of biology, the scientific community does not consider the subject as part of evolutionary theory, which assumes the existence of life and is directed to an explanation of how life evolved after it originated. The theory of evolution does not presuppose either the absence or the presence of a creator. (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982) 529 F. Supp. 1255, 50 U.S. Law Week 2412)

Michigan House Bill 4382 - Feb 28, 2001 "All references to 'evolution' and 'how species change through time' shall be modified to indicate that this is an unproven theory by adding the phrase "all students will explain the competing theories of evolution and natural selection based on random mutation and the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator"


Michigan House Bill No. 4382 and 4705

Missouri House Bill 911 The Missouri Science Standards Act (HB911) was put before the Missouri House of Representatives proposes requiring Missouri schools to teach what it calls "biological intelligent design." [A] hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence."

Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District High school biology teacher brought action against school district, challenging requirements that he teach evolutionism, as well as school district order barring him from discussing his religious beliefs with students. In 1994, in Peloza v. Capistrano School District, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court finding that a teacher's First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is not violated by a school district's requirement that evolution be taught in biology classes. Rejecting plaintiff Peloza's definition of a "religion" of "evolutionism", the Court found that the district had simply and appropriately required a science teacher to teach a scientific theory in biology class. (John E. Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, (1994) 37 F. 3rd 517)

Prayer Banned in School During Extracurricular Activities On March 12, 1997, Alabama Judge Ira DeMent struck down an statute from 1993 that allowed "nonsectarian, nonproselytizing, student-initiated voluntary prayer" during required or extracurricular school activities, including graduation ceremonies and sporting events.

Robert Gentry vs. Los Alamos National Laboratory arXiv Papers outlining fatal flaws in the Big Bang theory on the arXiv, an internet service hosted at the time by Los Alamos National Laboratory, were removed. When the papers were posted again, they were removed a second time, and access password was revoked. As the arXiv is funded by tax funds, it is therefore inappropriate for the arXiv to discriminate on the basis of religion against scientists who do not ascribe to evolution. Unable to regain an access password through dialogue, a suit was brought against the parties involved. (Read lawsuit) Santorum Language a letter from Rick Santorum to the Discovery Institute - by the Texans for Better Science Education

Segraves v. State of California In 1981, the court found that the California State Board of Education's Science Framework, as written and as qualified by its antidogmatism policy, gave sufficient accommodation to the views of Segraves, contrary to his contention that class discussion of evolution prohibited his and his children's free exercise of religion. The anti-dogmatism policy provided that class discussions of origins should emphasize that scientific explanations focus on "how", not "ultimate cause", and that any speculative statements concerning origins, both in texts and in classes, should be presented conditionally, not dogmatically. The court's ruling also directed the Board of Education to disseminate the policy, which in 1989 was expanded to cover all areas of science, not just those concerning issues of origins. (Segraves v. California (1981) Sacramento Superior Court #278978)

Tennessee vs. John Scopes The Scopes "Monkey Trial" - The lower house of the Tennessee legislature passed the Butler bill: "It shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the universities, normals, and all other public schools of the State . . .to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation." It should have been an open-and-shut case: did a high school mathematics-turned-biology teacher teach evolution in class? If yes, Scopes was guilty of violating a new Tennessee law. But the case ballooned into one of the great media events of the twentieth century.

Tennesse Anti-evolution Statute (1925) House Bill N. 185. AN ACT prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.

Washington Senate Bill 6058 State senate education committee introduced a evolution textbook disclaimer bill that requires a message about the theory of evolution in all state-purchased science textbooks. A portion of the text is quoted as follows;"No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact.". Discussion on the SB6058 by the PNWS

Washington Senate Bill 6500 On January 18, 2002 an anti-evolution bill was introduced in the Washington State Senate and referred to the Education Committee. SB6500 "Finds that the teaching of the theory of evolution in the common schools of the state of Washington is repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and thereby unconstitutional and unlawful. Provides that all textbooks and curriculum that teach the theory of evolution shall be removed from the public schools forthwith and replaced with textbooks and curriculum that teach the self-evident truth of creation." Companion Bill HB 2681 was introduced to the House of Representatives with the same provisions requiring that textbooks and curriculum shall teach the self-evident truth of creation.

Webster v. New Lenox School District Ray Webster sought injunctive and declaratory relief based on his claim that the New Lenox School District violated his first and fourteenth amendment rights by prohibiting him from teaching a nonevolutionary theory of creation in the classroom. In 1990, in Webster v. New Lenox School District, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that a school district may prohibit a teacher from teaching creation science in fulfilling its responsibility to ensure that the First Amendment's establishment clause is not violated and that religious beliefs are not injected into the public school curriculum. The court upheld a district court finding that the school district had not violated Webster's free speech rights when it prohibited him from teaching "creation science", since it is a form of religious advocacy. (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F. 2d 1004)

Equal rights



Religious liberty legal defense

  • American Center for Law and Justice
  • Liberty Counsel A nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.
  • Pacific Justice Institute A non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties.
  • The Rutherford Institute A non-profit conservative legal organization dedicated to the defense of civil, especially religious, liberties and human rights.


  1. Country Profile:Australia by the U.S. Library of Congress. September 2005.
  2. School in clear over teaching creation A Christian school in Australia that teaches a biblical view of creation in science classes has been cleared of breaching state curriculum requirements for the teaching of evolution. The Sydney Morning Herald. December 9, 2008
  3. New Ben Stein Flick, Expelled, Blows the Whistle on the Darwinist Inquisition Evolution News and Views. August 23, 2007
  4. Future Teachers Conditional Scholarship and Loan Repayment Program Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board. 2008.

External links

See Also