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Introducation
Definitions
Religion vs. Science
First Amendment & Religious Explanations of Creation
Promoting Religious Explanations in Public Schools
Harming Religious Education
Conclusion

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Civil Rights  
Religious Doctrine in the Science Classroom;
Putting Education & Religious Freedom at Risk
RULE
First Amendment & Religious Explanations of Creation

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from endorsing any particular religious belief. This prohibition ensures that our public schools remain places in which students of all faiths or those who do not ascribe to religious beliefs may learn in an atmosphere free from divisive theological debates and sectarianism.

In disapproving organized prayer in the public schools in 1962, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court said that "[w]hen the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain."

Our public schools must be true to the First Amendment's mandate against religious divisiveness and remain free from the influence of religious dogma in order for students of all faiths to attend school without fear of coercion.

But proponents of teaching religious explanations for creation in public schools share a distinctly religious view of the world's origin and believe that the public schools should present that view even to the exclusion of science. However, this approach would plainly violate the First Amendment's prohibition against state action designed to advance a religious belief.

In 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, the Supreme Court held unambiguously that it is unconstitutional to restrict a public school teacher's right to teach evolution. More recently, in Aguillard v. Edwards, 482 U.S. 595 (1987), the Court decisively held that it is unconstitutional to require educators who teach evolution also to teach creationism. Courts have yet to address a similar requirement to teach intelligent design. But based on Aguillard and other Supreme Court rulings, courts should also find such a requirement unconstitutional.


Other Materials about Freedom of Religion
School Vouchers
First Amendment Primer
Charitable Choice
Faith and Freedom: 
The Case for Separation of Church-State
Religion in The Public Schools
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