A federal appeals court has refused to decide whether a Georgia school board’s evolution disclaimer violates the separation of church and state.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in late May that it could not determine the constitutionality of Cobb County’s evolution disclaimers because the record is incomplete.
“The problems presented by the record containing significant evidentiary gaps are compounded because at least some key findings of the district court are not supported by the evidence that is contained in the record,” Circuit Judge Ed Carnes wrote for the unanimous panel in Selman v. Cobb County School District. “We have concluded that the unfilled gaps in the record, coupled with the problematic nature of some of the district court’s fact findings, prevent proper appellate review of the merits of the important constitutional issue raised in this case.”
U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper ruled in 2005 that the evolution disclaimer is a violation of the separation of church and state and ordered the stickers removed from the district’s biology textbooks. Although the stickers were removed, the school board appealed Cooper’s ruling to the 11th Circuit.
The stickers state, in part, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.”
The 11th Circuit remanded the case back to Cooper saying that the judge would have to decide “whether to start with an entirely clean slate and a completely new trial or to supplement, clarify, and flesh out the evidence that it heard in the four days of bench trial already conducted.”