Schools May Not Be Forced to Teach Creationism, Rules Court / Unions Responsible for Not Challenging Discrimination

THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 2, 1987 | Go to article overview

Schools May Not Be Forced to Teach Creationism, Rules Court / Unions Responsible for Not Challenging Discrimination


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court, invoking the constitutionally required separation of church and state, ruled Friday that states may not require public schools that teach evolution to teach creationism also.

The court, by a 7-2 vote, struck down a Louisiana law requiring that teaching the theory of evolutionbe balanced by teaching the theory of creation-science, also called creationism.

Creation-science states that the earth and most life forms came into existence suddently about 6,000 years ago, in a process similar to a literal translation of the Book of Genesis.

In other actions, the court ruled:

- Labor unions may be held legally responsible for failing to challenge racial discrimination by employers against union members.

- A federal trial court may not license only those lawyers living or maintaining an office within the state where that court is located.

- Police may search automobile junkyards without court warrants, upholding a New York law that provided new help for combating motor-vehicle thefts.

Proponents of creation-science say the theory is not based on religion, and that the Louisiana law was an attempt to provide academic freedom. Friday the court rejected that argument.

Critics of creation-science have attacked it as religion masquerading as science.

Writing for the court, Justice William J. Brennan said the purpose of the Louisiana law ``was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint.''

He added: ``Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment.''

The Louisiana Legislature enacted the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act in 1981 but it was struck down before ever being enforced.

Evolution, first propounded by Charles Darwin, states that Earth is billions of years old, and that life forms developed gradually several million years ago.

Brennan said the Louisiana law was not really aimed at protectng academic freedom but ``has the distinctly different purpose of discrediting evolution by counterbalancing its teaching at every turn with the teaching of creation science.''

He added that the law is unconstitutional because ``it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose.''

The Constitution's First Amendment bans government from bringing about an ``establishment'' of religion.

Under past Supreme Court decisions, a law or governmental policy violates the constitutional ban if its primary purpose is not secular, its primary effect is to advance or inhibit religion or it unduly entangles government in religion.

Brennan said the Louisiana law does not have a secular purpose. …

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