Science Goes to Court in Texas

The Texas Education Agency’s former science curriculum director, Christine Comer, has filed a federal lawsuit charging that the agency’s policy of neutrality on teaching biblical creationism is unconstitutional. You might recall that TEA forced Comer to resign last fall after she forwarded an e-mail to colleagues and others outside the agency about an Austin talk by Prof. Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University. Forrest is an expert on the movement to promote “intelligent design”/creationism as an alternative to evolution in public schools. TEA directors claimed that forwarding the e-mail about Forrest’s lecture created the perception that the agency opposed teaching “intelligent design”/creationism rather than remaining neutral on the controversial topic. In her lawsuit, Forrest points out that federal courts have ruled that teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in public schools unconstitutionally promotes religion. “The agency’s ‘neutrality’ policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and thus violates the Establishment Clause,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit comes as the State Board of Education — itself chaired by a biblical creationist — prepares to begin debate over revising the curriculum standards for Texas public school science classes. The state board is supposed to set a schedule for that revision at its meeting July 17-18 in Austin. Rumors are circulating that the board’s powerful creationist faction may try to speed up the revision schedule so that work is completed before members elected in November take their seats at the first of the year. At least two of the board’s creationists face opposition on the November general election ballot: Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, and David Bradley, R-Beaumont.