Saturday, July 05, 2008

Woman Forced to Resign Over Evolution in Texas Fights Back

I have been wanting to write about this story since it first came to my attention on July 3, but other posts which seemed more pressing at the time forced themselves to the front.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is a not-for-profit organization that follows the evolution/intelligent design debate across the United States. Its website keeps those interested, such as myself, up to date on the actions of school boards across the country which seem to be pro-creationism/intelligent design.

The story in question started in November of 2007 when Chris Comer, director of Science at the Texas Education Agency (TEA), was forced to resign because she forwarded an e-mail to her colleagues at the TEA alerting them to a talk scheduled to be given in Austin, TX. The talk was to be given by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors. The TEA cited the subject matter of the talk, the history of the intelligent design movement and Forrest's involvement in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, as a reason for Comer's requested resignation. The TEA said Comer's forwarding of the e-mail represented her endorsement of the speaker on a subject, the evolution/intelligent design debate, on which the TEA must remain neutral. Just to make that clear to everyone reading this, that's a state-run educational agency choosing to remain neutral on the subject of evolution through natural selection.

Eight months later, Comer has now, thankfully, filed suit against the TEA in Federal District Court for redress. From this NCSE article, Comer seeks:

  • a declaratory judgment that the TEA policy of being "neutral" on the subject of creationism violates the Establishment Clause;
  • a declaratory judgment that Comer's firing was unconstitutional;
  • an offer from the TEA of reinstatement of Comer to her previous position as Director of Science;
  • an injunction against TEA "having, expressing, or imposing through any means, a policy of 'neutrality' with respect to the teaching of creationism in the Texas public schools, or a policy that expressly or implicitly equates evolution and creationism, or that in any way credits creationism as a valid scientific theory"
  • legal fees

It is my sincere hope that Miss Comer gets fully reinstated and once there, brings some much-needed common sense and rationality to a public agency clearly devoid of even the smallest shred of either. If this issue did not affect so many young people, it would truly be laughable. How can any member of the TEA, an elected board of 15 people, claim the agency must remain neutral on a subject as fundamental as evolution, and keep a straight face?

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