Thursday January 13, 2005 5:01 PM
By DOUG GROSS
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution ``a theory, not a fact,'' saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
The disclaimers were put in the books by school officials in suburban Cobb County in 2002.
``Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insids 44-page ruling.
Six parents of students and the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the stickers in court, arguing they violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
The case was heard in federal court last November, where the school system defended the warning stickers as a show of tolerance, not religious activism as some parents claimed.
``The Cobb County school board is doing more than accommodating religion,'' Michael Manely, an attorney for the parents, argued during the trial. ``They are promoting religious dogma to all students.''
Lawyers for Cobb County disagreed, saying the school board had made a good-faith effort to address questions that inevitably arise during the teaching of evolution.
``Science and religion are related and they're not mutually exclusive,'' school district attorney Linwood Gunn said. ``This sticker was an effort to get past that conflict and to teach good science.''
The schools placed the stickers after more than 2,000 parents complained the textbooks presented evolution as fact, without mentioning rival ideas about the beginnings of life.
The stickers read, ``This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.''
The case is one of several battles waged in recent years in the Bible Belt over what role evolution should play in science books. Last year, Georgia's education chief proposed a science curriculum that dropped the word ``evolution'' in favor of ``changes over time.'' That plan was soon dropped amid protests by teachers.