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In a modest triumph for academic freedom in America’s public schools, a federal court has challenged the decision of a lower court judge who had ordered Georgia schools to remove textbook stickers that called evolution “a theory, not a fact.” A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the previous decision be vacated and the case retried.1
In 2005, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the Cobb County School System to remove stickers from the inside front cover of tens of thousands of biology textbooks. The judge argued that because the sticker questioned evolution, it “appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism,” and was therefore unconstitutional. The stickers were eventually removed.
Although the lack of evidence was the largest problem the Circuit Court had with the judge’s ruling, the Court also commented that in the new trial, “it would be helpful if the court issued an entirely new set of findings of fact and conclusions of law,” suggesting that more than a technicality was involved in reviewing the decision. (For the moment, though, it appears that the stickers will not be reapplied inside the textbooks.)
The sticker issue affects more than just one school district in America. Because if a federal court sets the precedence that an evolution-questioning disclaimer is an establishment of religion, any law that has any perceived religious basis may be subject to a challenge in the courts.