At long last, Chris Comer loses appeal
In a decision issued on July 2, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision that the Texas Education Agency's policy requiring "neutrality" of its employees when "talking about evolution and creationism" is not unconstitutional. The case, Comer v. Scott, was filed by Chris Comer, the former director of the Texas Education Agency, who was forced to resign from her post in November 2007 after she forwarded a note announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest
This blog has several articles about the Comer case, in a post-label group listed in the side-bar of the homepage.
The appeals court decision has been almost unnoticed because Comer has such a weak case.
Here are my points about the case:
1. The subject of "evolution and creationism" is especially sensitive because many people claim that any criticism of evolution is creationism. Also, the question of which criticisms of evolution should be considered creationism is a subject of debate.
2. In some circumstances, it is OK for government agencies to follow policies of neutrality or silence even when such policies interfere with the enforcement of laws or constitutions. For example, the US Census Bureau is prohibited by law from sharing personal census information with anyone outside the bureau, including law enforcement agencies.
3. Constitutional issues are entitled to the same neutrality policy as all other issues.
4. Comer essentially took it upon herself to appoint Barbara Forrest as a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency.
5. The TEA's neutrality policy is a general policy covering all issues under consideration by the state board of education and was not aimed specifically at the evolution issue. Hence, any constitutional violation is unintentional and incidental.
6. If Comer thought that the neutrality policy was unconstitutional, she should have tried to change the policy through the proper channels. Instead she took it upon herself to violate the policy.
7. The play "A Man for All Seasons" has the following exchange about interpreting silence:
Thomas More: The maxim of the law is, "Silence gives consent." If, therefore, you wish to construe
what my silence betokened... .. you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.
Master Secretary: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?
Thomas More: The world must construe according to its wits. This court must construe according to the law.
8. Basically, Comer's claim that the TEA's neutrality policy is an "endorsement" of teaching creationism is absurd.
However, I feel that forcing Comer to resign was a mistake because it has turned her into a Darwinist martyr. I think it would have been better just to make her TEA job miserable.
The court decisions in Comer v. Scott are sort of victories for critics of Darwinism. The courts are now showing that there is a limit to how far they are willing to go in enforcing the so-called "separation of church and state" in "monkey trials." The Darwinists can no longer brag that they have won every court case since the Scopes trial.
Labels: Chris Comer