Chris Comer Appeals Creationism Related Ruling

Chris Comer was the Director of Science with the Texas Educaiton Agency until she was forced to resign in November of 2007. That happened because she disseminated information about an upcoming talk that would likely be critical of creationism. She was fired because the TEA (hee hee he said .... "tea") claimed a "neutrality" policy and claimed that Chris had broken the policy. Her reference, via email, to the upcoming talk was an endorsement of ... OMG! Evolution! Evolution over Creationism!!!

Yes folks, you read that right. Chis Comer was effectively fired from her job as director of Science of the TEA because she gave the vaguest hint that she supported evolution over creationism. I'm sure you already know that story.

Anyway, she sued, and the court in which she sued ruled against her because that court did not feel that her claim ... that the TEA had violated the establishment clause ... was valid.

Truthfully, this is a tricky one. The court ruling against her in this case did not mean much regarding church and state or evolution vs. creationism.

Well, Chris Comer has filed an appeal in the US Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit. The appeal was filed on August 6th and asks for ... the record de novo and reverse and vacate the district court's decision. Specifically, it should grant Comer's motion for summary judgment, and vacate the grant of summary judgment for defendants, as well as the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint. At a minimum, this Court should vacate the grant of summary judgment to defendants, plus the order dismissing the complaint, and remand for further proceedings.

Here is the original ruling.
Here is the appeal.
You can see a summary of this story here. As soon as I hear more I'll let you know .

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Not knowing anything about the case I wonder why this wasn't a matter of unfair dismissal rather than a constitutional violation. The establishment clause claims seem rather tenuous.

Creationism should not be taught in public schools because the specific forms of creationism belong to the Abrahamic religions. Furthermore, the only common belief between Abrahamic religions is that there is one god and god created the earth and its plants and animals. Some are young-earth, others are old-earth, and yet others are gap-creationists. So if a form of creationism ideologically neutral to Abrahamic religions were to be taught, you'd find that there's really nothing to teach. All you can say is "god created the earth and plants and animals" and that's it - no substance and absolutely no evidence to back up the ridiculous claim.

What Chris was doing was perfectly consistent with her position, endorsing the scientific view which is taught around the world. Punishing her for doing so is religion's backhanded way of saying "we're boss", but I can't imagine how that might be related to the constitution. Her dismissal was unfair because of the insidious religious agenda which is being plied as a "neutral stance". How can you possibly be "neutral" in education when science says one thing and religion says numerous contradictory things? The claim to neutrality is nothing but a religious lie. Being neutral, as we can see from the NCSE, means pushing science and not favoring any religions.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 13 Aug 2009 #permalink

I suspect that there are two reasons this is not unfair dismissal. First, she resigned, and she was in one of those jobs where they can tell you to resign and you just have to. Second, Chris is not trying to keep her job with these actions, she's trying to move ahead with the fight for rational choice, science, etc. etc. and unfair dismissal would be fairly unrelated.

The ruling does, however, underscore the need for care in appointing judges. Whether or not the stance that creationism is a protected worldview is a religious issue depends an awful lot on where you stand to view religion.

I'm afraid that the preponderance of case law makes it clear that creationism is a protected view. Ironically, that is how we keep it out of the classroom. As religion, that dog will hunt. But it is OK to say "no dogs allowed" in the public school.

I know courts in the UK recognise "constructive dismissal" wehre someone's working life is made so unpleasant, or they are made feel so unwelcome, that they are forced to resign.

This seems to be a case of constructive dismissal if every I saw one.

Even if Chris Comer violated a policy (not clear in this case), forwarding an otherwise uncontroversial email as she did was at most a 'verbal reprimand' offense. But Texas is run by Gov Perry for batshit crazy dominionists. The unwritten policy was not to ruffle the feathers of Christian extremist friends of Texas' closeted governor.