Cobb County Case Settled

In other news, the Cobb County sticker kerfuffle has now been settled.

You might recall that this was the case where a small Georgia school district decided to paste warning labels inside their high school biology textbooks. The labels asserted the following:

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.

Some parents in the district sued, claiming a First Amendment violation. The Judge agreed, and found that the stickers were unconstitutional.

The case was subsequently appealed to a three judge panel. Two of the judges were known to be very conservative, and the oral arguments did not go especially well for the good guys. Surprisingly, however, the panel did not vote to overturn the decision. Instead they vacated the decision, claiming that certain of the facts upon which the trial judge based his opinion were not adequately documented in the record. They kicked it back to the trial court for further review.


And that brings us to the present. Here’s the press release from the school district:

The Cobb County Board of Education has reached an agreement with plaintiffs to end a lawsuit over stickers addressing evolution that were placed in science textbooks. After more than four years the agreement brings to conclusion the legal action taken against the school district by Cobb citizen Jeffrey Selman in 2002.

In January 2005, Judge Clarence Cooper ruled the stickers unconstitutional and ordered them removed from the science textbooks. The stickers were removed later that summer. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court vacated Judge Cooper’s decision and remanded the case to the lower court.

“We are very pleased to reach this agreement and end the lawsuit,” said Cobb County Board of Education Chair Dr. Teresa Plenge. “After the 11th Circuit Court vacated the decision, we faced the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial. With this agreement, it is done, and we now have a clean slate going into the New Year.”

Under the agreement, the District will not attempt to place the same, or similar, stickers in textbooks again. In return, plaintiffs have agreed to end all legal action against the school district. In a separate agreement, the District has agreed to pay $166,659, which represents a portion of the plaintiff’s legal fees.

“Appealing the lower court ruling was the right decision by the school board because that ruling was incorrect,” said Dr. Plenge. “The Board maintains that the stickers were constitutional, but, at the same time, the Board clearly sees the need to put this divisive issue behind us. There will be no stickers in textbooks, and, as always, we will continue to provide Cobb County students a curriculum that follows national and state standards in teaching science and the theory of evolution.”

Short version: The good guys score a complete victory.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and state offered these thoughts on the matter:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today lauded a Georgia public school board’s decision to drop its defense of anti-evolution disclaimers for science textbooks.

The Cobb County School Board has agreed to settle the long-running legal fracas over its 2002 decision to place anti-evolution stickers in high school biology textbooks.

In an agreement announced today, Cobb County school officials state that they will not order the placement of “any stickers, labels, stamps, inscriptions, or other warnings or disclaimers bearing language substantially similar to that used on the sticker that is the subject of this action.” School officials also agreed not to take other actions that would undermine the teaching of evolution in biology classes.

&lduqo;Cobb County school officials have taken the right step to ensure that their students receive a quality education,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Students should be taught sound science, and the curriculum should not be altered at the behest of aggressive religious groups.”

Comments

  1. #1 BAC
    December 19, 2006

    This was a great decision, and demonstrates the need for all of us to continue safeguarding separation of church and state. Americans United is working with The Interfaith Alliance Foundation on a joint project called First Freedom First. It’s a way to let elected officials know there is support for church-state separation. Part of the campaign talks about academic integrity, which includes teaching science in science class, not religion. If you agree, I urge you to visit the First Freedom First web site and sign the petition. Go to http://www.firstfreedomfirst.org

    BAC

  2. #2 Russell Blackford
    December 21, 2006

    Wow, that settlement really is a total victory for the forces of enlightenment and a total back-down by the irrationalists.

  3. #3 Dick Lessard
    December 21, 2006

    Jason,

    Thanks for the story — excellent news. One quibble: Characterizing Cobb County as “a small Georgia school district” might lead some readers to conjure up images of a rural backwoods community. Cobb County has a population of 663,818 (per U.S. Census Bureau). It is adjacent to Fulton County (Atlanta’s county), and I believe it’s generally thought of as part of the greater Atlanta metro area. I believe I’ve also heard it’s a very prosperous suburb — think shopping malls, megachurches, and SUVs.

  4. #4 Jason Rosenhouse
    December 21, 2006

    Dick-

    Thanks for the correction.

  5. #5 Larry Fafarman
    December 25, 2006

    Jason Rosenhouse said,

    Short version: The good guys score a complete victory.

    How can it be a complete victory? The original decision was vacated and is therefore worthless as precedent.

    I was astonished when I heard of the Cobb County Cop-Out because the school board was actually in a good position. The case had been remanded because of missing evidence which was unlikely to be found and the appeals court judges seemed to indicate in an oral hearing that they were leaning towards reversing the decision.

    Also, the cop-out was very unfair to the law firm that represented the board for free in the appeals court. I think that the only honorable thing for the board to do now is to compensate this law firm for the representation in the appeals court.

    My blog has several stories about the Cobb County Cop-Out –
    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  6. #6 LuckyStrike
    December 26, 2006

    BAC, if you believe in “the Separation of Church and State,” then you should remove Methodological Naturalism (MN) from the curriculum of any Science class.

    Contrary to Evolutionists’ claims, Evolutionary theory contains philosophical metaphysics. Specifically, Evolutionary theory is epistemologically constructed with Methodological Naturalism (MN), a methodology which logically concludes with Metaphysical or Ontological Naturalism. To illustrate how Methodological Naturalism logically concludes with Metaphysical or Ontological Naturalism, consider the following line of reasoning[1]:
    P1. Since Science cannot test for, examine, and/or falsify supernatural explanations of physical phenomena, Evolutionists believe that Science must employ methodologically naturalistic investigation for all physical phenomena. Otherwise, Evolutionists claim that Science exceeds its own limitations and violates its own nature.
    P2A. Methodologically naturalistic investigation must yield naturalistic observations and explanations. Otherwise, methodologically naturalistic investigation contradicts its own parameters.
    P2B. A naturalistic explanation of a physical phenomenon must presuppose a naturalistic chain of events. However, if a supernatural cause breaks a chain of causation in any way, then the physical phenomenon in question ceases to be naturalistic in nature.
    P3. If methodologically naturalistic investigation cannot and does not postulate any supernatural explanations for any and all physical phenomena, then Science inherently presupposes Metaphysical or Ontological Naturalism.

    As a result, Evolutionists create a self-contradictory Philosophy of Science. Specifically, they use the limitations of Science as a basis for Naturalism, yet Naturalism violates the limitations of Science.

    So, in reality, are you really concerned about “the Separation of Church and State,” or eliminating the viewpoints of those who oppose philosophical Naturalism from the curriculum of any Science class?

    Footnote:
    [1] For further reading, see “Naturalism: Is it Necessary?” by John S. Wilkons @ TalkOrigins.org.

  7. #7 Jon S
    December 27, 2006

    Far cry from being a victory of any kind, this decision is a defeat for all Americans. The school district clearly didn’t violate the constitution. When political pressure is used to silence critical thinking, we should all be worried. Anyone who values freedom of speech (or freedom of religion for that matter) will see this as a breakdown and failure of our political system.

  8. #8 JGS
    February 7, 2007

    Evolution is a fact from what we have all been taught. I was wondering if there is any hard proof i.e… Mitochondrial DNA that we share a single ancestor with fossils or easier, a live chimp?

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