Supreme Court Declines Appeal on Calif. Web Site About Evolution

By Mark Walsh — March 23, 2009 1 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of a California mother who objected on religious grounds to a state-run Web site designed to counter concerns about teaching evolution.

The mother, Jeanne E. Caldwell of Roseville, Calif., alleged in a lawsuit that the Web site Understanding Evolution endorses the view that the theory of evolution is compatible with religion and disapproves of views such as her own that the two are incompatible.

The Web site is operated by the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, and was initially funded by a grant by the National Science Foundation.

Caldwell objected most to a page on the Web site titled: “Misconception: ‘Evolution and Religion are Incompatible,’” which suggests among other things that “most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings.”

Court papers filed on behalf of the mother argued that “Caldwell is of the opinion that children in the public schools should not be taught that the Christian account of origins is compatible with Darwin’s evolutionary account of evolution.”

Both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, rejected Caldwell’s suit. A three-judge panel of the appeals court said in an opinion last October that the mother had “no more than an abstract objection to how the university’s Web site presents the subject” of how evolution and religion may coexist. That wasn’t enough to state an injury giving her standing to sue over the Web site, the court said.

The Supreme Court declined without comment to hear the mother’s appeal in Caldwell v. Caldwell (Case No. 08-858). By coincidence, the lead defendant in the suit was Roy L. Caldwell, the director of the Museum of Paleontology, but who is no relation to Jeanne Caldwell.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.