The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has joined the national dialogue over the extent to which public schools can disavow the theory of evolution. On Aug. 13, in Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, the court struck down a Louisiana school board’s resolution that requires teachers in its district to offer disclaimers that evolution lessons are “not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.” Concluding that the disclaimer is aimed at the “protection and maintenance of a particular religious viewpoint,” the court held that it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits the excessive entanglement of government and religion.
“[T]he explicit reference to the �Biblical version of Creation’ in the [disclaimer] . . . urges students to think about religious theories of the �the origin of life and matter’ as an alternative to evolution,” wrote Circuit Judge Fortunato “Pete” Benavides for a unanimous three-judge panel. The holding came just two days after the Kansas State Board of Education adopted new testing standards that de-emphasize the teaching of evolution. According to the new standards, Kansas public school students will no longer be tested in statewide exams on “macroevolution,” which involves theories about how species evolve from earlier, distinct species, says Kathy Toelkes, public information coordinator for the state board.
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