THE last time we wrote about this topic was here: Christina Comer’s Lawsuit Dismissed.
Comer had sued the Texas Education Agency (the “TEA”) and Education Commissioner Robert Scott, alleging that she was fired merely because she forwarded an email from the National Center for Science Education’s Glenn Branch announcing a talk by NCSE board member Dr. Barbara Forrest, who was to give a lecture that was critical of teaching of intelligent design in science classes. One might say that Comer was “expelled.”
Both sides moved for summary judgment. In effect, that means they all agreed there were no factual issues in dispute, so the judge could make a decision as a matter of law, without a trial. The court ruled against Comer, and granted summary judgment for the defendants. This was discussed in our earlier post, and we thought it was all over.
Now, however, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports: Chris Comer appeals. There’s not much we can say that isn’t already said at the NCSE site, but we’ll try.
First, some links, courtesy of NCSE. They’re PDF files:
Summary Judgment against Comer, the order which is being appealed
Comer’s appellate brief, 51 pages long
NCSE’s archive of all the Comer court documents
What can we add? We observe that Comer is being represented by Patton Boggs, so her case is in good hands. They’re not cheap, so we can’t imagine how she’s paying for this by herself.
If you’ve been following the legal history of the evolution-creationism controversy, you’ll enjoy reading the brief — although it contains an unavoidable bit of jargon. The beginning of the brief has the required “Statement of Facts,” and then — before the detailed legal stuff — page 11 gives the required “Summary of the Argument.” It starts out:
Like prohibiting the teaching of evolution (Epperson), or requiring the teaching of creationism (Aguillard), or placing stickers on textbooks (Selman) or reading disclaimers in class (Kitzmiller), the TEA’s policy of equating creationism with science violates the Establishment Clause because it endorses a religious belief.
The district court erred in approving the Agency’s desire to enforce employee neutrality, “regardless of [the] constitutionality” of treating creationism as science. Under Aguillard, there is no constitutional room for dispute about whether to teach creationism, and the Agency has no legally protected interest in requiring neutrality on that issue.
The creationism policy fails to pass Establishment Clause muster under Lemon. Specifically, a “reasonable observer” who knew the history reflected in Epperson, Aguillard, Selman, and Kitzmiller and the record in this case would conclude that the Agency’s creationism policy impermissibly endorsed a religious belief, and had no other effect.
You can learn more about those cases here: Creationism and the Law (another NCSE resource).
We posted this a year ago, but it’s worth repeating: For access to all court papers now and hereafter filed regarding this case, if you have a PACER subscription you can go here: Justia Federal District Court Filings & Dockets. That site also has links to other information on the internet about the case and the parties, and those don’t require PACER, but the links are sometimes useless. They’re search queries, so as time goes on they should be increasingly productive.
A PACER subscription is free and can be obtained here: PACER Service Center. Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is a service of the United States Judiciary.
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