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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Darwinism and the public purse: Court rules parents have a right to protest

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am following the Caldwell case closely. Larry Caldwell, a California lawyer is representing his wife in suing UCal Berkely because its evolution Web site provides lots of information on religious groups that support Darwinism but not on religious groups that oppose it.

Anyway, the latest is that Caldwell has established that he has the legal right to pursue a case regardng tax money in civil rights lawsuit against the Roseville Joint Union High School. (Note: Previously, this ruling was erroneously reported as coming n the course of Mrs. Caldwell's suit against UCal Berkeley).

From Larry Caldwell's press release:

In an important legal victory for citizens seeking to improve how evolution is taught in public schools, a federal judge has ruled that California citizens have a Constitutional right under the First Amendment to put proposed evolution policies on the agenda of local school board meetings for public debate and potential adoption, and that school officials who refuse such a request are subject to potential civil rights remedies in federal court.

Said plaintiff Larry Caldwell, "The court's ruling is a vindication of the constitutional right of California citizens to initiate public debate in school board meetings on the question of how we should teach evolution to our children."

Added Caldwell, "This is a crucial educational policy issue that must be addressed if our children are to acquire the critical thinking skills they will need to compete in the Twenty-First Century."

(Note: The entire press release is quoted at the very bottom of this post. I was not given a link for it. I do have a .pdf of the court ruling, and will send it to anyone who enquires at oleary@sympatico.ca.)

Generally, American jurisprudence has been decidedly negative about publicly funded groups promoting one religion rather than another. The First Amendment to the US Constitution says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..." In the United States, this amendment has typically been interpreted in a very broad way, including the removal of Nativity scenes, listings of the Ten Commandments, et cetera, from public places.

UCal Berkeley, the defendant institution, claims that it is "merely providing information."

That would be fine, if it provided information about both sides of a hugely contentious public controversy.

But unfortunately, you see, it doesn’t. You only get the religious side that supports their view. The Jehovah's Witnesses would do exactly the same thing, except that they do not seek public funding. That will wash no more, unless the US has indeed established Darwinism as a religion - perhaps on the very brink of its fall?

One thought that has occurred to me: Structuralism/biophysics may turn out to be be just as worthy a naturalistic theory of evolution as Darwinism. I wonder if the requirement to teach Darwinism but not these other theories will be construed at some point as discriminatory.

(Note: The next time an obscene comment appears, I am going to close the Comments box once again, after deleting the comment. My advice to persons who wish to post to this blog is: Dissuade anyone you know who is inclined to obscenity from posting here. It will not survive, and neither will any other comment thereafter. Hey, see this as a form of artificial selection ... )

Are you looking for the following stories?

Stuart Pivar, a friend of the late Stephen Jay Gould, recently asked NCSE to change the wording of the statement for the Steve list - downplaying the role of natural selection in evolution, and spazzed out a lot of Darwinists. Pivar’s book advocating structuralism (biophysics) is to be reviewed in a science journal.

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. It will be interesting to see the line that the “separation of church and state” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Joseph, Cardinal Schonborn is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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=============Press Release==================

School Officials Must Answer in Court for Alleged Religious Discrimination

Sacramento, CA In an important legal victory for citizens seeking to improve how evolution is taught in public schools, a federal judge has ruled that California citizens have a Constitutional right under the First Amendment to put proposed evolution policies on the agenda of local school board meetings for public debate and potential adoption, and that school officials who
refuse such a request are subject to potential civil rights remedies in federal court.

Said plaintiff Larry Caldwell, "The court's ruling is a vindication of the constitutional right of California citizens to initiate public debate in school board meetings on the question of how we should teach evolution to our children."

Added Caldwell, "This is a crucial educational policy issue that must be addressed if our children are to acquire the critical thinking skills they will need to compete in the Twenty-First Century."

School officials of the Roseville Joint Union High School District have maintained that they have the right to deny citizens the opportunity to have a proposed education policy placed on a school board agenda. The court ruled that such a policy, if proven, would constitute illegal "viewpoint discrimination" under the Free Speech Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The legal ruling came in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by parent activist and attorney Larry Caldwell, arising out of his year-long effort to persuade the Roseville Joint Union High School District to adopt his Quality Science Education Policy. The QSE Policy seeks to stimulate the critical thinking skills of students by including both scientific strengths and weaknesses of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in biology classes.

U.S. District Court Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr. also ruled that school officials who base their refusal on the actual or perceived religious beliefs or affiliations of the citizen proposing the policy also run afoul of the protections against religious discrimination in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In papers filed in the lawsuit, attorneys for school officials have admitted that their refusal for eight months to permit Caldwell's proposed QSE Policy to be debated and voted on at school board meetings was based in part on Caldwell's Christian religious beliefs.

Said Karen England, Executive Director of Capitol Resource Institute, a California pro-family, public policy group, "We are pleased that the court has recognized the constitutional right of California parents to participate in local school board meetings in a pro-active way. It is unfortunate that it has taken a lawsuit to get the leadership of the Roseville high school district to honor the constitutional rights of Mr. Caldwell and other citizens."

Pacific Justice Institute, the Sacramento-based public interest organization, is acting as co-counsel with Caldwell in the lawsuit.

=============End Press Release==================

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