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Biology Book Stickers Ruled Unconstitutional

By Doug Gross
Associated Press
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page A03

ATLANTA, Jan. 13 -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered the immediate removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks by school officials in suburban Cobb County that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

"Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said in his 44-page ruling.

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Some parents of students and the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the stickers in court, arguing that they violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

"This is a great day for Cobb County students," said attorney Michael Manely, who represented the parents who brought the lawsuit. "They're going to be permitted to learn science unadulterated by religious dogma."

School board members said in a written statement that they believe the stickers are an "evenhanded guide to science instruction" and encourage students to be "critical thinkers." They had not decided whether to appeal. A board spokesman said no decision had been made on when, or if, the stickers that were placed on the books in 2002 will be removed.

Schools in the suburban district north of Atlanta placed the stickers after more than 2,000 parents complained the textbooks presented evolution as fact, without mentioning rival ideas about the beginnings of life.

During four days of testimony in federal court last November, the school system defended the warning stickers as a show of tolerance, not religious activism, as some parents said.

But Kenneth Miller, a Brown University biology professor and co-author of one of the texts that bears the sticker, said, "What it tells students is that we're certain of everything else in this book except evolution."

Miller said he will travel to Philadelphia on Friday to meet with lawyers in a similar case, in which parents are suing the Dover, Pa., school system over the required teaching of "intelligent design."

A statewide debate in Kansas over similar teachings looms later this year. Last year, Georgia's education chief proposed a science curriculum that dropped the word "evolution" in favor of "changes over time." That plan was scrapped amid protests by teachers.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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