Christine Comer Loses Her Appeal

As regular readers of this blog will remember, Christine Comer was forced to resign as the Texas Education Agency’s director of science curriculum back in 2007 when she forwarded an email announcing a lecture by Barbara Forrest promoting the teaching of evolution and criticizing “intelligent design.” The agency accused Comer of violating its policy requiring neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism.
In 2008, Comer filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the policy, but a federal judge dismissed the case. Comer then asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision. But late last week, it upheld the lower court’s decision, finding the agency’s policy is not unconstitutional.
As Judge Fortunato Benavides explains in the decision, posted by the NCSE:

Upon review of the record and applicable law, we cannot conclude that TEA’s neutrality policy has the “primary effect” of advancing religion. The fact that Comer and other TEA employees cannot speak out for or against possible subjects to be included in the curriculum—whether the considered subjects relate to the study of mathematics, Islamic art, creationism, chemistry, or the history of the Christian Crusades—their silence does not primarily advance religion, but rather, serves to preserve TEA’s administrative role in facilitating the curriculum review process for the Board.


Atheists in the Courtroom

Psychologists Douglas Keene and Rita Handrich offer lawyers some tactics for dealing with jurors and clients who are atheists (click on image for larger view):


Eco-Activist: Philosophy Can Be Based on Science

Tim Nicholson—whose deeply held belief in man-made climate change is akin to a philosophical belief and entitled to the same protection as a religious belief under employment equality laws, a British judge ruledmade an important point after leaving the hearing:

It’s a philosophical belief based on my moral and ethical values underpinned by scientific evidence and that’s the distinction [between it and a religious belief], I think. The moral and ethical values are similar to those that are promoted and adopted by many of the world’s religions, but one of the key differences, I think, is that mine is not a faith-based or spiritual-based belief; it is grounded in the overwhelming scientific evidence, and it’s the combination of that scientific evidence with the moral and ethical imperatives to do something about it that is distinct from a religion.


Christine Comer Appeals

Christine Comer is appealing the dismissal of her case against the Texas Education Agency.
As you might remember, Comer was forced to resign as the agency’s director of science curriculum back in 2007 because she forwarded an email from the National Center for Science Education (a pro-evolution group) announcing that Barbara Forrest would be speaking in Austin about (and against) attempts to get “intelligent design” into science classes. The TEA says it has a policy that requires staff to be neutral when talking about evolution and creationism.
In 2008, Comer filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the policy, and in April, a federal judge dismissed the case. Now, Comer is asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision.