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11 October 2005

last big creationism decision of the US Supreme Court

Science teachers Don Aguillard and Susan Epperson

... from the website of the Montana
American Civil Liberties Union -- just about the only website Vleeptron could find which gave Aguillard a human identity. In 1968, Epperson successfully fought to have a similar Arkansas law declared unconstitutional. Aguillard was one of many teachers, parents and religious figures who sued the Louisiana law, but the case is named for him because his last name begins with A.

"Creationism is alive and well
among biology teachers."

-- Don Aguillard

If Vleeptron has been relying a little heavily lately on Wikipedia, it's because

* Wikipedia is cool

* Wikipedia (as Vleeptron understands its policies on intellectual property) wants all its information to be freely distributed (credited to Wikipedia, of course) throughout Cyberspace.

* Wikipedia likes and encourages controversy, and has an internal mechanism for dealing with controversial topics, hot potatoes, fistfights, flame wars, etc.

Very often, if a Wikipedia article says

The Moon is made of Green Cheese.

Down at the bottom, Wikipedia will add something like

This topic is DISPUTED. X believes the Moon is made of Halvah. Y believes the Moon is made of Madonna's used undergarments. Z believes the Moon is made of Yellow Cheese.

And Wikipedia provides links to websites that give opposing viewpoints. Wikipedia also invites individual idiots like me to add to or complain about its treatment of just about any topic.

Now on all this Creationism / Intelligent Design Stuph ...

Vleeptron is gonna give all youse people a break and NOT republish the actual mega-boring US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Decision about Creationism called Edwards v. Aguillard.

(Edwards was the Governor of Louisiana -- and a realllllly colorful guy, with lots of girlfriends and parties and corruption and other kinds of Naughty Cajun Fun. As for his stance on Creationism -- if Creationism was what his voters wanted, Creationism was what Edwards was gonna give 'em. He liked to keep all his voters Happy. Laissez les bontemps roullez!)

Edwards v. Aguillard
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) was a case heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled that a law requiring that creation science be taught every time evolution was taught was unconstitutional

[VLEEPTRON EXTRA: And therefore Null & Void, unenforceable, an Un-Law.]

because the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. At the same time, however, it held that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

In support of Aguillard, 72 Nobel prize-winning scientists, 17 state academies of science, and 7 other scientific organizations filed an amicus

[amicus = amicus curiæ = "Friend of the Court" ... not a party to the lawsuit, but "friendly observers and experts" offering useful information to the judges.]

brief which described creation science as being composed of religious tenets.


Creationists had often sought to advance their agenda through the use of legislation. Opponents of creationism countered by getting the courts to abolish such legislation on the basis that they violated the establishment clause of the US constitution, which forbids the government from advancing a particular religion. Indeed the Scopes Trial of 1925 [Tennessee] had originally been intended to be appealed on this basis.

The creation science movement arose during the 1960s, presenting what was claimed to be scientific evidence supporting young earth creationism, though critics in the mainstream scientific community (including many Christians) denounced it as pseudoscience lacking any evidential basis whatsoever. The SCOTUS decision in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) ruled [that] bans on teaching evolutionary biology [are] unconstitutional.

In the early 1980s, the Louisiana legislature passed a law titled the "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act".

[VLEEPTRON ASIDE: Uhhh, yeah, Balanced, like Fox News Channel's motto: "Fair and Balanced."]

The Act did not require teaching either creationism or evolution, but did require that when evolutionary science was taught, the "creation science" had to be taught as well. Creationists had lobbied aggressively for the law.

The State [represented in the lawsuit by Governor Edwards] argued that the Act was about academic freedom for teachers.

Lower courts had ruled that the State's actual purpose was to promote the religious doctrine of "creation science," but the State appealed to the Supreme Court. In a similar case in McLean v. Arkansas had also decided against creationism. Mclean v. Arkansas however was not appealed to the national level, creationists instead thinking that they had better chances with Edwards v. Aguillard.


On June 19, 1987 the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice William J. Brennan, ruled that the Act constituted an unconstitutional infringement on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, based on the three-pronged Lemon test

[VLEEPTRON CONFESSION: We don't have a clue what the Lemon Test is. It probably doesn't involve fruit.]

, which is:

1. The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose;

2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and

3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" of the government and religion.

However it did note that alternative scientific theories could be taught:

We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught ... [T]eaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Rehnquist dissented, noting "to look for the sole purpose of even a single legislator is probably to look for something that does not exist."


The ruling had great effect on the creationist movement. It only affected state schools, with independent schools, home schools, Sunday schools and Christian schools free to still teach creationism. Within two years a creationist textbook had been produced, "Of Pandas and People," which attacked evolutionary biology without mentioning the identity of the supposed "intelligent designer." This form of creationism, known as intelligent design creationism, started in the early 1990s. This would eventually lead to another court case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which went to trial on September 26, 2005.

External links

* text of the court decision
* amicus brief


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