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Russian Teen Sues School Over Teaching of Evolution

A Russian court on Wednesday held hearings in an unprecedented lawsuit brought by a 15-year-old student who says being taught the theory of evolution in school violates her rights and insults her religious beliefs.

Maria Shreiber sued the St. Petersburg city education committee, claiming the 10th-grade biology textbook used at the Cervantes Gymnasium was offensive to believers and that teachers should offer an alternative to Darwin's famous theory.

"The biology textbook generally refers to religion and the existence of God in a negative way. It infringes on believers' rights," she said in comments carried by Russian television stations.

Shreiber could not be immediately located for further comment.

Her father, Kiril Schreiber, who represented her in court Wednesday, said he wants the biology textbook revised.

School officials, meanwhile, were dismissive of the suit. Principal Andrei Polozov said he doubted Shreiber had "serious religions beliefs."

"It seems to everyone that this is stupid and serves no purpose," he said of the lawsuit in televised comments. "Pupils and teachers are more amused than concerned about it."

Deputy Principal Olga Makarova told The Associated Press that the biology teacher had mentioned alternative theories to evolution.

"When starting the course on the matter, the biology teacher said that there are other versions of humanity's origin," she said.

The suit is the first of its kind in Russia.

In the United States, several lawsuits challenging the theory that says humans descended from apes have been filed in courts, with many anti-evolution groups pushing an idea known as "intelligent design" which holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by some kind of higher force.