Caldwell Litigation Against UC Berkeley

DESPITE THEIR ENDLESS DENIALS, and their transparently silly claims that they’re promoting a scientific theory, it has long been obvious to everyone that the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) are operating on religious motivations.

They have a new blog article: University of California Defends Its “Right” to Propagate Pro-Evolution Religious Doctrine. It’s written by Larry Caldwell, husband of Jeanne Caldwell, one of the parties in Caldwell v. Caldwell, now pending in the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. (The other Caldwell in the suit’s name is a UC professor who is unrelated to Jeanne.)

Larry Caldwell, the article’s author, is not listed as being affiliated with the Discovery Institute. Although he’s writing in their blog, we don’t regard him as a Discoveroid. But because Larry is so closely tied to the Caldwell litigation about which he’s writing, before we can appreciate his article we need some background from a disinterested source, which your Curmudgeon is pleased to provide.

For years, the University of California at Berkeley has had an educational website called Understanding Evolution. We added it to our List-O-Links back in September of 2005.

Fine. A useful resource. No problem. But some people don’t think so. Jeanne Caldwell sued the University because its website — she alleged — violated the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

Caldwell’s lawsuit was filed at the same time that the more newsworthy Dover case (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) was approaching trial in Pennsylvania, so it didn’t get as much attention as it otherwise might have. Ironically, the Dover litigation was partly responsible for the UC’s website. They created it because of all the publicity Dover was generating.

Although virtually eclipsed by the news from Dover, the Caldwell suit did get some attention worldwide. This is an example, an article from the Guardian (UK) in October of 2005: Intelligent design opponents invoke US constitution:

[Because of the Dover case,] Berkeley has responded to requests from schools for materials to explain evolution. The lawsuit has been brought by Jeanne Caldwell, a California parent whose husband, Larry, is a lawyer, an anti-evolution activist, and the founder of a group called Quality Science Education for All.

Note the name of the group Larry founded. It seems that anti-evolution people always claim they want “quality science education.” Ah well, moving along with the Guardian article:

Anti-evolutionists claim that the site breaches the American constitution on the separation of church and state because it links to religious organisations which believe faith can be reconciled with Darwin’s theory of evolution, reported the website Inside Higher Ed today. [Emphasis supplied.]

What? Was the Caldwells’ grievance about one of the UC website’s links? A link? According to the Guardian:

Mr Caldwell told Inside Higher Ed that by linking to religious groups’ statements in favour of religion, Berkeley was “taking a position on evolution and attempting to persuade minor students to accept that position.” [Emphasis supplied.]

That’s really it — the presence of an internet link to someone else’s website allegedly violated the First Amendment. That link was probably this: Statements from Religious Organizations, which we ourselves frequently use, to a list of religious denominations that are compatible with evolution. (To be exquisitely accurate, the Caldwell complaint listed additional features of the UC website that Caldwell found objectionable, which are described in the dismissal order linked below, but the link mentioned above was certainly a factor.)

Back in March of 2006, the Caldwell suit was dismissed. The court’s order is here. One of the UC’s websites reported that Court dismisses lawsuit targeting evolution website, saying:

The “Understanding Evolution” website is intended as a resource for teaching evolution. Larry and Jeanne Caldwell took issue specifically with one web page that says it’s a misconception that science and religion are incompatible.

“Basically, what we have is a page that deals with the misconceptions and challenges to the teaching of evolution, and we provided resources to teachers to answer them,” said Roy Caldwell [no relation to the plaintiff]. “One of those questions is, ‘Aren’t religion and evolution incompatible?’ and we say, ‘no,’ and point to a number of sites by clerics and others who make that point.”

The plaintiffs alleged that these statements constituted a preference for certain religious viewpoints in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Okay, that might have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. Although Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District has come and gone, the Caldwell case against UC is still alive. Jeanne Caldwell appealed, and that still-pending appeal is the background for the article written by Jeanne’s husband in the Discoveroid blog.

We’ve already gone on too long in this article, so we’ll give you only one excerpt from Larry Caldwell’s article, his conclusion:

It turns out the people who always claim to want to keep religion out of science actually want to convert our children’s biology classes into Darwinian Sunday School classes.

As Wolfgang Pauli once said, that’s “not even wrong.” No doubt we’ll be re-visiting this issue.

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