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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science Appendix A Six Significant Court Decisions Regarding Evolution And Creationism Issues1 The following are excerpts from important court decisions regarding evolution and creationism issues. The reader is encouraged to read the full statements as need and time allows. In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, the United States Supreme Court invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of evolution. The Court held the statute unconstitutional on grounds that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not permit a state to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any particular religious sect or doctrine. (Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97. (1968)) In 1981, in Segraves v. State of California, the Court found that the California State Board of Education's Science Framework, as written and as qualified by its anti-dogmatism 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 distinctions 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 widely disseminate the policy, which in 1989 was expanded to cover all areas of science, not just those concerning issues of origins. (Segraves v. California, No. 278978 Sacramento Superior Court (1981)) 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, 529 F. Supp. 1255, 50 (1982) U.S. Law Week 2412) In 1987, in Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court held unconstitutional Louisiana's "Creationism Act." This statute prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools, except when it was accompanied by instruction in "creation science." The Court found that, by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind, which is embraced by the term creation science, the act impermissibly endorses religion. In addition, the Court found that the provision of a comprehensive science education is undermined when it is forbidden to teach evolution except when creation science is also taught. ( Edwards v. Aguillard, 482, U.S. 578, 55 (1987) U.S. Law Week 4860, S. CT. 2573, 96 L. Ed. 2d510) In 1990, in Webster v. New Lennox 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 religious beliefs are not injected into the public school curriculum. The court upheld a
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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science 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 Lennox School District #122, 917 F.2d 1004 (7th. Cir., 1990)) In 1994, in Peloza v. Capistrano Unified 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. (Peloza v. Capistrano Unified School District, 37 F.3d 517 (9th Cir., 1994)) NOTE 1. Matsumura, M., ed. 1995. Pp. 2-3 in Voices for Evolution. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Science Education.
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