NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some thought the Cobb County school board in Georgia had a good chance at securing a significant victory in the struggle to teach the evolution controversy in public schools, but the board gave up the fight Dec. 19 after four years of legal battles.
The board settled a lawsuit filed by parents who had complained that stickers placed in high school science textbooks violated their constitutional rights against the government’s establishment of religion.
The stickers read: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”
In May, a three-judge panel for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta unanimously concluded that the case needed to return to U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper because “unfilled gaps in the [legal] record” kept them from understanding how Cooper arrived at his decision in January 2005 when he said the stickers violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
As part of the settlement, the school system agreed not to take out or edit materials on evolution in textbooks, not to use the stickers again and to pay more than $160,000 in attorney fees for the plaintiffs, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We faced the distraction and expense of starting all over with more legal actions and another trial,” Teresa Plenge, the board’s chairwoman, told the Associated Press. “With this agreement, it is done and we now have a clean slate for the new year.”
Plenge told The Journal-Constitution that she believed the stickers were constitutional but the board wanted to put the divisive issue behind them.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups that represented the plaintiffs, counted the settlement as a victory.
“The settlement brings to end a long battle to keep our science classes free of political or religious agendas,” Jeffrey Selman, a parent, said in a statement.
But school board attorney Linwood Gunn said the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and other opponents did not win a precedent against stickers because in the end there was no legal decision that ruled one way or another.
“The school board attempted to reach what they thought was a reasonable compromise,” Gunn told the AP.
ANOTHER PASTOR RESIGNS FROM HAGGARD’S CHURCH — Christopher Beard, director of New Life Church’s 24/7 ministry for young adults, resigned Dec. 8 after confessing to sexual misconduct. The church’s senior pastor, Ted Haggard, resigned last fall.
Beard, 35, founded the leadership training program and served on staff at the Colorado Springs church for nine years. His resignation was the result of an increased scrutiny of the spiritual character of the staff in recent weeks.
An external board of overseers interviewed many of the church’s 200 staff members in order to “make sure that any secondary effects of Rev. Haggard’s disordered moral life would not be part of the church’s future,” according to a Dec. 18 news release by the church.
The church said that during a meeting with overseers, it became apparent that Beard “had displayed poor judgment in several decisions throughout his tenure. This poor judgment included one instance of consensual sexual contact with another unmarried adult several years ago.”
Beard was unmarried at the time of the encounter, and the church confirmed that the other person was not part of the young adult ministry at the church.
“As a church, the moral code to which we submit to is the Bible, and the Bible makes clear that there shouldn’t be even a hint of sexual immorality,” associate pastor Rob Brendle told USA Today. “Sexual activity outside the context of marriage falls into that category.”
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that several church members have wondered why Beard was not shown more forgiveness by the church, since the shortcoming was a one-time encounter and he confessed his sin.
Ross Parsley, acting senior pastor at New Life, sent an e-mail to members explaining that forgiveness often comes with accountability.
“Church leaders are held to a higher standard than others because the consequences are greater when that standard is violated,” Parsley wrote, according to The Gazette. “We are taking steps to ensure that New Life Church will continue to be a place worthy of the community’s trust.”
Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, resigned Nov. 4 after acknowledging he received a massage from a male prostitute and purchased methamphetamine.
DOCTOR EXAMINES DANGERS OF ‘SEXUAL FREEDOM’ — The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece Dec. 14 highlighting the destruction many college women face because of the double standard surrounding “sexual freedom,” especially in university cultures.
The author of the article, Danielle Crittenden, drew from a book called “Unprotected: Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student,” written by a doctor who felt pressured to remain anonymous.
“Unfortunately, the young women described in ‘Unprotected’ have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their ‘sexual choices.’ And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment,” Crittenden wrote.
Crittenden explains how the same women would be helped immediately by university health departments if they were suffering from eating disorders, substance abuse or nearly any other medical problem. But when their depression, lack of sleep, and other symptoms of psychic distress are caused by sexual promiscuity on college campuses, health professionals too often refuse to intervene.
Doctors will warn students against smoking, excessive drinking, fatty diets and tanning beds, the book author writes, but few will condemn premarital sexual activity.
Consequently, college women are confused, Crittenden said.
“They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves,” she wrote. “They can’t understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that ‘sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active.’”
Crittenden expressed frustration that health departments will “book an abortion, hand out a condom or prescribe a course of antibiotic treatment” for a woman who has made poor sexual choices, but they will not admonish her about the behavior that led her to visit the office.
“Isn’t promoting health, even saving lives, ‘worth the risk of feeling judged’? Apparently not,” Crittenden writes.