Fired TEA Employee Files Appeal
Former director of science curriculum disputes TEA's 'neutrality' on creationism
The former director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency was forced to resign in 2007 after forwarding an e-mail announcing a public lecture in which Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, would criticize the teaching of "intelligent design" and creationism in public schools.
The TEA informed Comer that it had a "neutrality" policy on the evolution/creationism issue, which she had violated in forwarding the e-mail. Comer sued on the grounds that the policy was a violation of the Constitution's separation clause – pointing to several court decisions ruling that creationism and intelligent design are religious dogma, not science – but a U.S. district court dismissed her case, remarkably stating that the TEA could enforce its policy "regardless of constitutionality."
On Aug. 5, Comer challenged that decision in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, again disputing the constitutionality of the policy and charging that firing an employee to uphold an unconstitutional policy is in itself an unconstitutional act.
"It is inappropriate to expect the TEA's director of science curriculum to 'remain neutral' on this subject, any more than astronomy teachers should 'remain neutral' about whether the Earth goes around the sun," reads Comer's brief to the court. "There can be no neutrality on an issue that is scientifically and legally clear-cut: evolution should be taught at the K-12 level in the same fashion that we teach it in universities, an accepted and rigorous science, not juxtaposed with a religious idea however politically popular."
Defendants in the suit are both the TEA and its commissioner, Robert Scott.