WE have more creationist litigation news today. Your Curmudgeon hasn’t been writing much about this one, except briefly in our new year look-ahead, because it’s been so well reported by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). This link to their website has the court pleadings: ACSI et al. v. Stearns et al.
The case involves the Association of Christian Schools International and a few other plaintiffs who sued the University of California system over UC’s refusal to recognize various high school level creationist courses taught by homeschoolers and some private schools, when UC is evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission.
Now the NCSE reports: Victory again in California creationism case. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
In a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court’s summary judgment in favor of the University of California system in ACSI et al. v. Stearns et al.
Good news! Let’s read on:
The plaintiffs objected to the university system’s policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books — Biology: God’s Living Creation and Biology for Christian Schools — as “inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community.”
Michael Behe, a proponent of “intelligent design” creationism, defended the textbooks, while Donald Kennedy and Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) contended that they were inappropriate for use as the principal text in a college preparatory biology course. The trial judge was unpersuaded by Behe’s defense.
We continue with the NCSE article:
[The creationist plaintiffs' appeal argued] that the University of California’s policy on high school biology courses “constitutes viewpoint discrimination, content discrimination, and content-based regulation, which conflict with the First Amendment.”
That could be important for some other cases we’re watching. It’s the same kind of argument being made in the “Darwin’s Dilemma” Lawsuit. The creationists there are also alleging a First Amendment violation because of “viewpoint discrimination.”
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the University of California’s policy was constitutional on its face … . “The plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing any risk that UC’s policy will lead to the suppression of speech. … the plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing that this policy is discriminatory in any way.
This is a link to the court’s opinion. It’s a pdf file.
It’s noteworthy that this is a decision of the Ninth Circuit. That same federal appellate court decided the Caldwell case, ruling against a creationist’s First Amendment claims.
That court will also be deciding the James Corbett case about a teacher whose classroom remarks that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” were ruled to have violated the Constitution’s establishment clause. We may be wildly optimistic here, but it would seem that the more First Amendment creationism cases a court gets — and decides correctly — the better it should be for later cases.
However, the “Darwin’s Dilemma” Lawsuit was filed in a California state court, so if it goes all the way to an appeal, it won’t go to the Ninth Circuit, which hears only federal cases. Nevertheless, the “Darwin’s Dilemma” case involves some of the same constitutional issues. Courts pay attention to precedents from other jurisdictions, even if they aren’t technically binding.
Again, the more First Amendment “viewpoint discrimination” cases that get decided against creationists, the better. It’s risky the first time such a case goes to court, but things get easier as the precedents pile up. The Caldwell case and the Stearns case are now decided, and the Corbett appeal will be decided by the same appellate court. That decision will probably come before the “Darwin’s Dilemma” case is finished. Those three cases aren’t identical, of course, but they should be instructive for the “Darwin’s Dilemma” court.
It’s starting to look like the creationists’ latest strategy isn’t going to work for them. But it’s too soon to make predictions. We’ll have to wait.
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