Re: [asa] Expelled and ID

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Apr 28 2008 - 09:25:28 EDT

In response to Dave C.'s questions below: this is a place where the
establishment clause jurisprudence gets a little hazy, and where local
school districts very often go too far in censoring materials. Banning
books from the library seems ludicrous on constitutional grounds. It may be
a different matter if the library staff is purposefully "stocking" the
library with materials favoring one religion, but including books by Behe or
Johnson is not, in itself, a constitutional issue. It also should not be
unconstitutional to discuss ID or other religious ideas in a philosophy or
history class that is designed to provide an overview of various
perspectives on an issue. A public school should certainly be able to offer
a "History of Interaction Between Religion and Science" class, for example,
assuming again that the material is not loaded in favor of a particular
religious view. The question of "loading," however, could be a difficult
one -- the establishment clause's test for what constitutes an "endorsement"
of religion is rather fuzzy, and unfortunately there is a history of school
boards (as in Dover PA) trying to do exactly this sort of thing.

On Sun, Apr 27, 2008 at 11:54 PM, David Clounch <>

> On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 7:56 AM, David Opderbeck <>
> wrote:
> > Dave Clounch asks: Given Barr's statements on the strong evidence for
> > cosmological design, is it constitututional to inform school children that
> > cosmological design is supported by science?
> >
> > I respond: Not in those terms. That would be an official endorsement
> > of religion. It might be possible, in the context of a comparative religion
> > or philosophy class, to discuss such a claim generally.
> >
> Dave O,
> I think if schools would take scientific materialism and various forms of
> naturalism down the hallway into the history or philosophy class, then I'd
> be a happy camper.
> Regards,
> Dave C
> PS, A couple more questions, if I may:
> 1)So, if Lisa Randall wrote in her book on Brane Theory that physics has
> theological implications, this book too must be disallowed from the
> premises?
> 2) What about a school district such as mine who declared that these sorts
> of materials cannot even be used in history or philosophy class, as you
> suggested? Every book, every scrap of paper, everywhere, was declared as
> "must support the curriculum". And since Behe's and Johnsons books are
> said to not support the curriculum they arent allowed anywhere. Not in any
> classroom nor in the libraries. Not in history class. Not in philosophy
> class. Perhaps not even in backpacks. Phillip Johnson's book specifically
> was banned because one paragraph said the book "explains a Christian world
> view". That was what the Connie O'Sullivan stated as the reason it must be
> disallowed. Makes me wonder, must Paul Johnson's 'History of Christianity"
> be thrown out too? And Barr's book? Are these really the actions of
> someone seeking neutrality? And what about the Koran and Islamic books on
> science? All expelled?

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Mon Apr 28 09:26:28 2008

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