Biology Teacher Banned for Views Sues School District

Article excerpt

A Minnesota high school science teacher who was banned from teaching biology because of his religious beliefs has sued the school district for religious discrimination and violation of his First Amendment rights of free speech.

Rodney LeVake, 43, brought suit against the Minnesota Independent School District 656 after he was removed from his biology classes last year. School officials said his deep religious views conflicted with his ability to effectively teach evolution.

Mr. LeVake, a veteran educator with 13 years' experience, continues to teach general science courses at Faribault Senior High School, even though he is the only teacher in the science department who has a master's degree in biology education, said his attorney, Frank Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice. Mr. Manion filed the lawsuit Tuesday with the State District Court in Rice County.

A father of three who is active in his church, Mr. LeVake holds views on religion that are widely known; he has given the invocation at the high school's football banquet for several years. He says he repeatedly assured school administrators that he was not interested in teaching creationism, but wanted to make sure his students knew that not all scientists accept the theories of evolution as "unquestionable fact."

"This is like telling a Democrat who teaches history that he's not able to teach the history of the Reagan administration because of his political views," Mr. Manion said of the school's decision. "Just because a person is of a particular philosophical, political or religious persuasion, that doesn't disqualify them from teaching the subject."

In his lawsuit, Mr. LeVake contends the school violated his constitutional rights to academic freedom as well as his rights to due process.

Teaching biology was Mr. LeVake's lifelong goal, and the district's decision to oust him from those classes has "stunted his career," Mr. Manion said. The suit seeks unspecified damages and his reinstatement as a biology teacher.

In the 1998 school year, Mr. LeVake taught from the assigned 10th-grade biology textbook, which included several chapters mentioning evolution. …