July 2003 Issue #100
Religious Right Agenda In Congress
Another Ruling Issued In Long-Running Santa Fe Prayer Case
A federal judge awarded $1 in damages to a high school student who sued the Santa Fe school district for the right to recite a prayer over the p.a. system before a school football game, while criticizing her lawyer’s handling of the case. The student, Marian Ward, had sued to stop the district from enforcing a policy preventing her from saying a prayer or punishing her if she did. Judge Sim Lake granted her a temporary restraining order. After the Supreme Court held in Doe v. Santa Fe ISD that such prayers are unconstitutional and Ward graduated, he dismissed her suit as moot in 2000.
The 5th Circuit agreed at first that the case was moot. On reconsideration, it ruled in 2002 that a claim for nominal damages keeps a case from being entirely moot and it ordered Lake to decide if any damages were warranted.
Lake’s recent decision awarded Ward the dollar and some attorney fees in an amount drastically reduced from what Ward requested. Lake also once again rejected Ward’s efforts to force this case to trial or to obtain a written decision on the prayer issue. In his decision, Lake criticized Ward’s attorney, Kelly Coghlan, for going to “great lengths to reopen issues that were long ago resolved and to make a public spectacle out of this case.”
Texas Biology Textbook Hearing Targets Evolution
A debate about evolution dominated a State Board of Education hearing on biology textbooks. The debate was prompted by a report and testimony presented by the Discovery Institute encouraging the Board to make sure biology textbooks teach students about "both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory."
The Discovery Institute is, it says, a "national, non-profit, non-partisan think tank" that encourages schools to "improve science education by teaching students more fully about the theory of evolution" and supports "the work of scholars who are working on an alternative theory known as intelligent design." Intelligent design (ID) is a theory that life developed based on a plan designed by an intelligent cause. The Institute maintains that the theory is agnostic, it is a secular organization, it does not favor including creationism in biology textbooks, and its concerns about textbook coverage of evolution have nothing to do with creationism. It denies it is trying to get the Board to put ID in biology textbooks. Critics charge that ID is a variation of creationism and is more theistic than scientific and that the Institute, which is ID’s leading proponent and is heavily funded by evangelical Christians, is trying to hide its religious agenda. Religious right Board members David Bradley and Terri Leo, both of whom represent our area, complained that the books do not reflect the weaknesses of evolution. According to the Galveston County Daily News¸ Bradley said the real censors were the people who were trying to keep creationism and mentions of intelligent design out of the content of the proposed biology textbooks. (Public schools are not allowed to teach creationism as scientific fact or theory.) The board will have another hearing on the biology textbooks in September and will make its final decision in November.
Appeals Court Rules Against Alabama "Ten Commandments" Judge
The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that a monument of the Ten Commandments placed in Alabama’s judicial building by its supreme court’s chief justice is unconstitutional and must be removed. Chief Justice Roy Moore says he will appeal to the Supreme Court.
Thurs. Jul. 17, 7:00 P.M.
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