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« Class Action Reform & Common Sense (or Lack Thereof) The RantsCarnival of the Godless #4 »

Arkansas on ID Stickers: "We had our fingers crossed!"
2005.02.19 (Sat) 14:14

In a move strikingly similar to the well known playground tactic of crossing their fingers, the Beebe, Arkansas school board recently announced that their recent announcement concerning the removal of anti-evolution stickers from science textbooks was not true. According to sources close to the school board, the ACLU forgot to yell out "no crossies" before accepting a letter from the school board's attorney, thereby creating the loophole that Beebe is now exploiting.

An article in the Leader, found via the NCSE, explains:

The Beebe School Board decided Monday night that evolution disclaimer stickers will stay in science books, at least for the time being.

A threatened lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union has brought to light the stickers, which board members say they didn't know existed. But now that they know and they know the ACLU intends to sue if they don't remove them, they will wait for the outcome of an appeal of a federal case that was fuel for the ACLU's demand that the stickers be removed immediately.

They also want to wait and see if a conservative, Washington, D.C.-based organization, the American Center for Law and Justice, will be able to defend them in the event of a lawsuit by the ACLU. "Get us some more information," board member Lorrie Belew told Dr. Kieth Williams, school superintendent.

A federal judge in Georgia ruled in mid-January that evolution disclaimer stickers in science books in Cobb County School District had to be immediately removed. The stickers said: "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."

The school district is appealing the federal court's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The sticker on science books at Beebe beginning with the fourth grade goes further than the Georgia sticker, saying that some people think it makes more sense to consider an "intelligent designer" was responsible for life, which the ACLU says is violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state.

So, in a nutshell, they are waiting for the outcome of the Cobb County case before they decide what to do, and also seeing if they can get free legal representation from a religious-based law firm. Apparently, the ACLU's commendation last week for the Beebe board may have been undeserved. Sadly, ACLU representative Rita Sklar neglected to cross her fingers while delivering it, thereby leaving no avenue for retracting the statement.

Board member Tommy Vana-man said the next morning that if research shows the school district is violating some federal law by placing the stickers in the science books, the board will take them out. "If it's just because the ACLU wants them out, that's a different story," Vanaman said.

So far, he said, no one on the board has been able to determine through the information they've researched what, if anything, federal law says about affixing stickers to textbooks questioning the validity of evolution as it pertains to the origin of life or the change of one life form into another or promoting the concept of an "intelligent designer."

It seems that the researching abilities of the Beebe board are also on par with first graders, since we had no trouble at all finding relevant information. Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education leaps to mind here. A summary of that case found on the NCSE web site lays out the federal government's stance on all of these issue quite clearly:

7. In 1997, in Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana rejected a policy requiring teachers to read aloud a disclaimer whenever they taught about evolution, ostensibly to promote "critical thinking". Noting that the policy singled out the theory of evolution for attention, that the only "concept" from which students were not to be "dissuaded" was "the Biblical concept of Creation", and that students were already encouraged to engage in critical thinking, the Court wrote that, "In mandating this disclaimer, the School Board is endorsing religion by disclaiming the teaching of evolution in such a manner as to convey the message that evolution is a religious viewpoint that runs counter to ... other religious views". Besides addressing disclaimer policies, the decision is noteworthy for recognizing that curriculum proposals for "intelligent design" are equivalent to proposals for teaching "creation science". (Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Education, No. 94-3577 (E.D. La. Aug. 8, 1997). On August 13, 1999, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision; on June 19, 2000, the Supreme Court declined to hear the School Board's appeal, thus letting the lower court's decision stand.

Sure, that ruling pertained to a verbal disclaimer being read to students and not a sticker, but we see these approaches as virtually the same. Of course, the Beebe board could use the time honored argument of "nah-ah, is not."

What about the press release from the ACLU issued last week stating Beebe's intention to remove the stickers? Again, the Leader reports:

That press release was based on a letter to the ACLU from Paul Blume, the school district's attorney that said the district would remove the stickers at the end of the school year. However, at the time the letter was written, board members say they hadn't reached a decision. They only wanted an extension to the two-week deadline the ACLU gave them to remove the stickers.

ACLU attorneys are meeting now to discuss the statue of limitations on calling "no backsies," and to investigate claims that the Beebe board may have had two sets of fingers crossed while delivering the letter, thus resulting in the dreaded "double cross" which would negate the loophole.


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[  Filed under: % Creationism  % Government & Politics  % Religion  ]

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