Court Rejects Anti-Evolution Disclaimers In Ga. Textbooks

The Religious Right crusade to promote religion in public school science curricula was dealt a setback recently when a federal court ruled unconstitutional the use of textbook disclaimers about evolution.

On Jan. 13, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ordered the Cobb County school district in Georgia to remove stickers that state, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

Cooper held that “an informed, reasonable observer would interpret the Sticker to convey a message of endorsement of religion.”

The judge’s 44-page opinion in Selman v. Cobb County School District noted that Marjorie Rogers, a parent of a district student who described herself “as a six-day biblical creationist,” led the drive for the textbook disclaimers.

In 2002 after the school board adopted the stickers, six school district parents, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, sued arguing that the disclaimers violated the separation of church and state.

Maggie Garrett, a Georgia ACLU attorney (and former Americans United staff attorney), lauded Cooper’s ruling.

On Jan. 17, the Cobb County School Board voted 5-2 to appeal Cooper’s ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.