Schools Can’t Teach Religion as Science, Even in Texas

Charles C. Haynes

Director, Religious Freedom Education Project
Friday, August 26, 2011

WASHINGTON Texas Gov. Rick Perry needs to get home more often.

On Aug. 11, just days before Perry told a boy in New Hampshire that in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution, the Texas Education Agency sent a memorandum to the State Board of Education finalizing approval of scientifically accurate teaching material for use in Texas public schools.

Perry’s pronouncement notwithstanding, Texas schools teach evolution without any mention of creationism despite years of political pressure from religious conservatives to include creationist ideas in the curriculum. Evolution, dismissed by Perry as a theory that’s out there with some gaps, is presented as sound science in Texas textbooks and supplementary materials.

But even if a majority of the Texas state board voted tomorrow to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms, public schools may not do so without violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment. So-called balanced treatment when you teach one, teach the other was explicitly struck down as unconstitutional promotion of religion in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 (Edwards v. Aguillard).

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