Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Michigan Next?

The Detroit Free Press has a report on the Dover decision that includes this tidbit:

The next court test on whether public schoolchildren can be taught that some intelligent force set the universe in motion could move to Michigan now that a federal judge has barred a Pennsylvania district from teaching intelligent design…

In Michigan, the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor has threatened to sue Gull Lake Community Schools in the community of Richland for refusing to allow two middle school science teachers to teach intelligent design. Representatives from the center have said they are also considering defending teachers in other districts who want to teach intelligent design.

The center did not say today whether it will carry out a previous threat to sue Gull Lake Schools.

It also provides a little background on the Gull Lake situation that shows why the TMLC would be quite foolish to pursue the case after the Dover decision:

The Michigan teachers, Julie Olson and Dawn Wenzel, put a book on intelligent design called “Of Pandas and People” on Gull Lake’s annual textbook list. Wenzel and Olson also added a lesson involving “Of Pandas and People” into the district’s binder-thick science curriculum.

The school board subsequently approved both, and the teachers quietly taught intelligent design to middle school students until a parent complained in the fall of 2004. That’s when the district ordered the teachers to stop.

The superintendent said the board approved the overall book list and curriculum, and didn’t realize they were also approving something that included intelligent design. But the Thomas More Center, a legal advocacy group defending Christian principles, maintained the district had approved teaching the controversial lessons, and threatened to sue.

Given that the Dover trial established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Of Pandas and People is a creationist textbook no different from what was banned in Edwards v Aguillard, the TMLC would be foolhardy to attempt to defend it again. The courts have made clear that teachers do not have a right to teach material outside of the approved curriculum, much less material that has already been ruled unconstitutional.

Update: My MCFS colleague Don Weinshank was on WJR radio this morning with a representative from the TMLC and when asked whether they still intend to file a suit in Gull Lake, he answered yes and indicated that it would be filed within 2-3 months. Wow. Are they fools or masochists?

Comments

  1. #1 decrepitoldfool
    December 21, 2005

    “Are they fools or masochists?”

    Those options are not mutually exclusive.

  2. #2 Dan
    December 21, 2005

    First things first. I think we need to rename TMLC the “Torture-us More Law Center.” They seem to have a penchant for picking losers and getting waxed in court.

    Second, I really hope they’re dumb enough to go through with this suit. If Dover was a good case, Gull Lake would be a great case. The free speech issues go nowhere; Hazelwood and its progeny clearly establish that. And as for the Establishment Clause? Well, I think we know how that turns out, provided that the district court follows the law.

    Here’s another interesting factoid. In Dover, TMLC defended a lawsuit brought by parents who sought to prevent ID in the science classroom. In Gull Lake, the situation would be much different — TMLC would be bringing the suit seeking to compel the teaching of ID in the science classroom. While it is extremely difficult to get sanctions for bringing a frivolous suit, TMLC had best be careful. Filing suit over Gull Lake means TMLC is dancing with frivolity.

    Let the games begin.

  3. #3 Matthew
    December 21, 2005

    I wonder if the DI crowd shows up for this one.

  4. #4 spyder
    December 21, 2005

    ‘Wow. Are they fools or masochists?”

    I can’t imagine how a certain amount of greed is not a factor as well. The contribution streams may start drying up but as yet they are still flowing at a rate beyond excessive.

  5. #5 Ed Darrell
    December 21, 2005

    Doesn’t Michigan have standards for what can and cannot be taught? Isn’t the case TMLC proposes to bring an admission that the teachers were derelict in their duties?

    If Gull Lake can get a team close to what the ACLU had in Dover, wow!

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    December 21, 2005

    Ed Darrell wrote:

    If Gull Lake can get a team close to what the ACLU had in Dover, wow!

    I frankly don’t think it would ever come to that. In every previous case where a teacher has asserted a right to teach creationism against the wishes of the school board or state, the cases have been dismissed and the dismissals upheld on appeal. I’m not sure it’s even necessary to get into the question of what they want to teach, it is enough that the right they assert simply doesn’t exist.

  7. #7 raj
    December 22, 2005

    While it is extremely difficult to get sanctions for bringing a frivolous suit, TMLC had best be careful. Filing suit over Gull Lake means TMLC is dancing with frivolity.

    The last paragraph of the 139 page decision in the Dover case essentially suggested that the TMLC’s defense of the Dover case was frivolous and essentially suggested that plaintiffs file for costs and attys’ fees. The Dover case appears to have been a “declaratory judgement” action (loosely stated, plainffs and defendants are interchanged, but it’s a bit more complicated than that). I would be surprised if, after the TMLC loses the Michigan case, the court doesn’t award costs and attorneys’ fees. Maybe the TMLC can bankrupt themselves with these suits.