January 18, 2005

Cobb school board appeals evolution sticker decision

In a 5-2 vote last night, the Cobb County School Board voted to appeal the decision of US District Judge Clarence Cooper, which would force the removal of a controversial sticker from science books in the county.

Cooper's decision insists the sticker, which reads "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," violates the "Establishment Clause" of the US Constitution, which maintains the so-called separation of church and state.

On the heels of the school board vote, the board issued a statement which indicated that they felt "condemned . . . for taking a reasonable approach to address the concerns of citizens on a controversial issue."

The disclaimers stem from a petition drive begun in 2002 by Marjorie Rogers, who described herself during testimony in November as a creationist who believes the Bible's book of Genesis is factual. Rogers collected 2,300 signatures from supporters, prompting the board to print the disclaimers on stickers and place them in 13 science books used in middle and high schools.

Six parents sued to remove the stickers saying the disclaimers violated the principle of separation between church and state. Cooper heard three days of testimony, plus closing arguments, in November. He issued his ruling Thursday.

The board's decision Monday flabbergasted Jeffrey Selman, the leader of the parents who sued. "They're ludicrous," he said. "They're ignoring the ruling."

Board Chairwoman Kathie Johnstone read the board's statement aloud Monday, although both she and Laura Searcy voted against the appeal. Johnstone, the only one of seven members not on the board when the disclaimers were written, said she personally felt "it's time to move on."

"I'm worried about the toll it will have on the district," she said.

Board members said they would pursue the appeal at no additional cost, a promise stemming from board attorney Glenn Brock's pledge to do his remaining work on the case for free. Brock's law firm has charged the board roughly $74,000 so far.

Brock said he would request a stay either today or tomrrow on the judge's decision, pending the appeal.

My major beef with the issue has been addressed already, and that's the additional expenditure that we as Cobb County taxpayers would be saddled with, thanks to this entire process. Brock's firm won't be adding to the tax burdon with the appeal -- based on that, my feeling is that the appeal should move forward. There is no logical reason that the Judge Cooper should intervein in this matter - the stickers do not endorse any one theory of creation over another; it only suggests that the generally accepted theory is not the only one.

Or are the parents who filed the suit so afraid of a challenge to their own theories that they feel a zeal toward defending their theory? An almost religious zeal, perhaps?

Posted by mhking at January 18, 2005 03:17 PM
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