Published January 18, 2005
MARIETTA, Ga. – Members of a suburban district's school board plan to challenge a federal judge's order to remove stickers in science textbooks that call evolution (search) "a theory, not a fact."
In a 5-2 vote, the Cobb County school board (search) decided to appeal last week's ruling. Board members said U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper's order to remove the stickers immediately "amounts to unnecessary judicial intrusion into local control of schools," according to a statement.
Monday's decision came after board members met with lawyers for three hours in a closed session.
"We have to make our best judgment based on the facts," said Curt Johnston, a member who was chairman when the board adopted the disclaimers in 2002.
He said the board believes the judge erred when ruling the disclaimers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
Board members said they would pursue the appeal at no additional cost, a promise stemming from board attorney Glenn Brock's pledge to do his remaining work on the case for free. Brock's law firm has charged the school board about $74,000 so far.
Brock said he will request a stay from the judge's order that the disclaimers be removed immediately.
The board's decision to appeal surprised Jeffrey Selman, the leader of the parents who sued to remove the stickers.
"They're ludicrous," Selman said. "They're ignoring the ruling."
The evolution disclaimers were prompted by a petition drive begun in 2002 by Marjorie Rogers (search), who described herself during testimony in November as a creationist who believes the Bible's book of Genesis (search) is factual.
The disclaimers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. 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."
Six parents sued to remove the stickers saying the disclaimers violated the principle of separation of church and state.
Judge Cooper heard three days of testimony in November. He issued his ruling last Thursday.
Emily Cohen, a Campbell High School sophomore, said Monday that most students she knows make fun of the disclaimers, which she finds "somewhat offensive."
"(They) kind of say, 'consider it critically,' as if we wouldn't have," Cohen said.