THE CREATOR IN THE CLASSROOM
From Everson to Edwards, a Legacy of Lunacy
In 1982 the Louisiana legislature passed a bill known as the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction” Act.[ref]La.Rev.Stat.Ann Sect. 17:286.1-17:286.7 (West 1982).[/ref] It was challenged as being violative of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, and struck down by the United Supreme Court in the famous case of Edwards v. Aguillard.[ref]Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).[/ref] The Court, choosing to characterize it as the “Creationism Act” rather than the “Balanced Treatment Act”, (its proper name),[ref]The tendentious opinion by Brennan depicted the Act by the whimsical and inflammatory epithet “Creationism Act,” Edwards, p. 580, belying any pretext of neutrality. This deliberate miscaricature was not joined by the concurring opinion of Justices Powell and Justice O’Connor, who referred to the bill by a shortened version of its actual name, the “Act” or “Balanced Treatment Act.” Edwards at 598.[/ref] summarized the bill as follows:
The Creationism Act forbids the teaching of the theory of evolution in public schools unless accompanied by instruction in “Ccreation science.” Sect. 17:286.4A. No school is required to teach evolution or creation science. If either is taught, however, the other must also be taught. Ibid. The theories of evolution and creation science are statutorily defined as “the scientific evidences for [creation or evolution] and inferences from those scientific evidences.” Sections 17.286.3(2) and (3).[ref]Edwards at 581. Bracket in original.[/ref]
The District court had determined that the bill “involve[d] teachings tailored to the principles of a particular religious sect or group of sects.” Aguillard v. Treen, 634 F.Supp. 426 (Ed La. 1985). The High Court applied the three part “Lemon” test.[ref]Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).[/ref]
This involves asking: 1) Was the law secular in purpose? 2) Was the statute’s primary effect one that neither advanced nor inhibits religion? and 3) Would the statute create excessive entanglement between government and religion? The Court came to the remarkable conclusion that the Balanced Treatment Act (or “Creation Science Act” as the Court preferred to call it) violated the first prong of the Lemon test — lack of secular purpose.
It is the purpose of this paper to examine the reasonableness of the Court’s decision against a grammatico-historical analysis of the First Amendment, the evolution (if we might borrow the phrase) of the First Amendment over the last fifty years; the current state of science including both the body of evidence for creation science and evolutionary science, the scientific method, and documented prejudices within the scientific community that color their conclusions and bring into question their objectivity; and the social and political implications of this decision. We shall see the Supreme Court’s decision was entirely at odds with the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and other founding documents and seminal writings of The Republic, that it was out of step with genuine science, and ultimately sets a dangerous course for education in this country. This paper will not focus exclusively on Edwards, but will draw most heavily from it since it is the most comprehensive case to date addressing the question of the Creator in the classroom.
“It is bigotry to teach only one theory of origins.” American Civil Liberties Union following the Scopes Trial.