Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Comer Files Suit Over TEA Termination

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Chris Comer has filed suit against the Texas Education Agency and its Education Commissioner, Robert Scott, over her termination late last year. Comer, the Science Curriculum Director for TEA at the time, was fired after forwarding an email to colleagues drawing their attention to a lecture given by a pro-evolution expert in the debate on intelligent design.

The lawsuit challenges the agency's neutrality regarding teaching creationism in the classroom.

Creationism is a religious belief. Teaching creationism as science in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States constitution. The Texas Education Agency ("Agency") has a policy of purported "neutrality" on teaching creationism as science in public schools. By professing "neutrality," the Agency credits creationism as a valid scientific theory. Creationism, however, is not a valid scientific theory; it is a religious belief. The Agency's policy is not neutral at all, because it has the purpose or effect of inviting dispute about an issue- teaching creationism as science in public schools- that is forbidden by the Establishment Clause. The Agency's "neutrality" has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and violates the Establishment Clause.

The remainder of the lawsuit is worth reading, as it gives details of the TEA's actions prior to and after the firing. There are also some interesting exhibits relating to the importance of Texas as a battleground in the fight by creationists to introduce the "strengths and weaknesses" argument against evolution.

As the Texas Observer notes:
After all the negative publicity, the mocking editorials, the scorn of the education community, and now this - a serious lawsuit - firing Comer looks like the dumbest thing TEA could have done.
Just before the State Board of Education is due to revise the state's science curriculum, the lawsuit promises to bring the issue of evolution front and center before the public eye. The State Board of Education is dominated by creationists, including the Chairman, Don McLeroy, and District 14's incumbent Gail Lowe. Depending on the outcome of the November elections, it is widely believed they will have a majority on the board. If that is the case, a lawsuit may be the only thing preventing the anti-science idealogues from introducing creationism to public schools through the back door.

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