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U.S. Court Rejects Louisiana Creationism Law

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The Louisiana law requiring that "creation science" be taught alongside evolution theory is unconstitutional because it "promotes the beliefs of some theistic sects to the detriment of others," a federal district judge ruled this month.

U.S. District Judge Adrian Duplantier said in his ruling that there can be no legitimate secular reason for the "Balanced-Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act," which the Louisiana legislature passed in 1981 to require the state's public schools to give balanced treatment to creationism if evolution is taught.

Neutrality Seen Violated

The judge held that the statute, which has never been enforced, violates the fundamental principle of the First Amendment that a state must be neutral in its treatment of religion.

"The sole reason why the Louisiana legislature would require the teaching of creationism is that it comports with the same religious doctrine," the judge said. Creationism is based on the biblical story of creation.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of 27 plaintiffs, including members of the clergy, scientists, parents, and public-school teachers, called the decision "the knock-out blow to the movement to teach the biblical story of creation in the public schools."

No Protracted Trial

Judge Duplantier issued the summary judgment" in the case, Don Aguillard v. David C. Treen, Governor, and denied a request by the statute's proponents for a trial, saying that "whatever the evidence would be, it could not affect the outcome. We decline to put the people of Louisiana to the very considerable needless ex-pense of a protracted trial."

Martha J. Kegel, the aclu executive director in Louisiana, said, "The decision sets the precedent that creationism laws are so blatantly unconstitutional that it will no longer be necessary to take these cases to trial."

A spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said last week, however, that the state will appeal the decision to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Ms. Kegel said she regretted the decision to appeal. Such an appeal ''will only continue to make Louisiana classrooms into a religious battleground," she said.

In 1982, a similar statute in Arkansas was declared unconstitutional after a 10-day federal-court trial. The decision was not appealed.

The Louisiana creationism statute is the only such law on the books in the country and only the second such law ever passed in the United States, Ms. Kegel said.

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