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The fight over how public schools should teach the theory of evolution is usually expected to fall along familiar battle lines. Thus, at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today, lawyers for the liberal American Civil Liberties Union will argue that school board members from conservative Cobb County violated the Constitution when they ordered that stickers questioning evolution’s validity be placed in high school biology books. But this case defies simple labels for Georgia State University law professor L. Lynn Hogue, who has led the conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation, worked for the disbarment of President Clinton and proposed a Georgia law that would allow the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings. Hogue signed on to an amicus brief filed on behalf of Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education, which supports the ACLU side of the case. “I’m sympathetic with their cause,” said Hogue, who also has pushed for gay marriage bans, fought Atlanta’s domestic partnership ordinance and battled the University of Georgia’s affirmative action program. “From my perspective as a conservative, I think science education is important,” he added. “And I’m not religiously sympathetic to anti-evolutionists, who I think are lunatics.” Hogue is equally candid on his view of intelligent design, which suggests that organisms developed over time in accordance with the design of an intelligent agent. He called the theory “bull—-.” “Evolution is a theory pieced together over time, not a self-enclosed theory that is its own end, which is what creationism is,” Hogue said. At issue in the 11th Circuit case are the stickers, which the Cobb school board placed in textbooks as a reaction to complaints from parents who wanted religious theories taught at the schools. The stickers read, “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.” In January, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper found that the stickers violated the Constitution’s ban on government establishment of religion. Encouraging the teaching of evolution as theory rather than as fact, Cooper wrote, fit into a strategy “to dilute evolution instruction employed by anti-evolutionists with religious motivations.” Cooper added that, by singling out evolution as a theory that should be considered carefully, the sticker “misleads students” regarding the significance of evolution “for the benefit of religious alternatives.” “By denigrating evolution,” Cooper wrote, “the School Board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the Sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories.” Selman v. Cobb County School District, 390 F. Supp 2d 1286. (The 11th Circuit case is No. 05-10341-1.) Hogue’s brief, which he said was primarily written by co-author Catherine J. Ross of The George Washington University Law School, asserted that the sticker, if reinserted into Cobb science texts, “would have a deleterious effect on science education in general and education in the biological sciences in particular” and will “deprive Cobb County students of the adequate public education guaranteed them by the Georgia Constitution.” The sticker, said the brief, “distorts science education and violates its integrity” and also threatens to cause economic damage, because “Georgia students will not be able to compete in an increasingly biotech-oriented global marketplace if they do not receive a quality science education.” ‘ATTACKS ON CHRISTIAN EXPRESSION’ Hogue’s former group, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, has not taken a public position on the case. Executive Director Shannon L. Goessling, who succeeded Hogue in September 2004, spoke highly of her predecessor but is in favor of returning the stickers to the textbooks. “It appears that, on a daily basis, we’re bombarded with attacks on Christian expression,” she said. She said Hogue’s brief “suggests that critical thinking and faith are somehow mutually exclusive.” “There are students at every Cobb County school who are taught, at home and at church, to believe in creationism,” said Goessling. “That doesn’t mean that they all fail science by definition.” Goessling said this is a case in which reasonable minds can disagree. “This is not a separation-of-church-and-state case,” she said. “This is a case allowing competing theories to be taught. … The sticker is a simple declaratory statement that does not favor or disfavor evolution as a scientific theory.” Goessling’s analysis reflects many of the pro-sticker arguments in the case, including the one filed by Cobb County and an amicus brief on behalf of the states of Texas and Alabama, both of which have disclaimers in science textbooks. Marietta attorney Ernest Linwood Gunn IV, representing Cobb County, wrote in his brief, “The Court’s focus should be, first and foremost, on the neutral language of the Sticker itself, together with the extensive evolutionary curriculum to which it is attached. “The issue is not whether the Sticker has educational merit, whether it is well-written, or whether one can imagine persons offended by its meaning. The issue is whether the Sticker endorses religion. Both on its face, and in its specific content, this Sticker does not,” wrote Gunn, who did not return a call for comment.

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