Judge Keeps Creationists Out of Arkansas Lawsuit
Both sides in the American Civil Liberties Union's suit contesting Arkansas' creationism law have opposed efforts by a group of 19 pro-creationism individuals and organizations to intervene in the case.
Judge William R. Overton denied the motion in Arkansas' Eastern District Federal court last week.
In his ruling, made Thursday, Judge Overton said, "The addition of 19 defendants can only complicate and perhaps delay the resolution of this dispute."
Arkansas Attorney General John Steven Clark, who is defending the law for the state along with Assistant Attorney General Frederick K. Campbell and Deputy Attorney General David L. Williams, had repeatedly asked that the supporters of creationism named in the motion be kept out of the case.
The American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) also objected to the proposed intervention. Attorney Robert M. Cearley, Jr, a local attorney working with the A.C.L.U., had filed a brief contending that the groups trying to intervene had no legitimate interests that could not be protected by the parties named as defendants.
A Creation Science Legal Defense Fund has been established by the Arkansas intervenors. According to Acts & Facts, a newsletter published by the Institute for Creation Research, a California creationism association:
"The intervenors seek to defend the constitutionality of the Balanced Treatment Act by arguing that it does not violate separation of church and state because creation science is at least as scientific as evolution science and is at least as nonreligious as evolution science."
Tax-deductible contributions made to the fund are to go to pay for telephone bills, air fare, and expert-witness fees.
William R. Bird, staff attorney for the California-based creationism organization, was to serve a general counsel for the new legal-support creationist groups, along with special counsel John W. Whitehead of Manassas, Va.
Regarding last week's decision, Mr. Whitehead said, "We're not pleased. I will be conferring with my co-counsel. This is appealable, of course."
The A.C.L.U. suit calls for declaratory and injunctive relief from Act 590 of 1981, Acts of Arkansas-that is, that the law, enacted last March, be declared illegal before it goes into effect in the fall of 1982.
The law, the A.C.L.U. will argue, constitutes establishment of state religion in violation of the First Amendment; abridges the academic freedom of both teachers and students; and is impermissibly vague.
The A.C.L.U. is representing 23 plaintiffs, including Arkansas clergymen, the American Jewish Congress, the Arkansas Education Association, and the National Association of Biology Teachers.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are Bruce J. Ennis, Jr. and Jack D. Novik of the national A.C.L.U., and Robert M. Cearley, Jr. and Philip E. Kaplan, both members of Little Rock law firms.
Witnesses in the case will not be formally announced until September 10, when both sides are scheduled to exchange the names. Mr. Ennis said that the A.C.L.U. "honestly hasn't decided on witnesses yet. We're considering very many experts."
He added that witnesses will be called to refute the scientific basis of creation theory, a move signaling, observers suggest, that the validity of creation science will be an issue.
That was not the case in the recent "Scopes II" trial involving creationism. In that California suit, brought by Kelly Seagraves and the Creation Science Research Center of San Diego against the state of California, the original complaint would have allowed discussion of three arguments of the anti-evolutionists. The state had assembled witnesses to contest the scientific validity of creationism.
But when the suit began, Richard K. Turner, attorney for the plaintiff, stated that he did not intend to argue that creationism as science must always be taught whenever evolution is taught.
The action shifted the matter at issue from the relative scientific merits of evolution and creationism to the Constitutional Question of whether the teaching of evolution is offensive to the exercise of freedom of religion.
In that case, Judge Irving Perluss said that "present board of education policy is sufficient to protect" the liberties of those who believe in the biblical story of creationism.
But the Arkansas law mandates balanced treatment for the theory of creation as science, not as theology. Supporters of the bill say it would not inject religion into the classroom because instruction would be based on the scientific evidence for the instantaneous creation of man and the universe.
Another formal step in the legal procedure, the filing of the State's answer to the A.C.L.U. complaint, was completed by the State last Wednesday. The answer simply refutes the charges filed by the A.C.L.U.
Vol. 01, Issue 00, Page 13