History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Controlling free speech in schools

August 10th, 2007 · No Comments

Questioning Darwin’s Theory in Your Child’s School: You Have the Right to Remain Silent…

We’ve gotten a couple of e-mails challenging my observation in a recent post that questioning Darwin’s theory in a public school is a federal crime. The reader implied that, because there is no federal statute explicitly censoring criticism of Darwin’s theory in public schools, it wasn’t a federal crime to do so. The issue of censorship in science classes in public schools is worth examining more closely.

Is it a federal crime to question Darwin’s theory in a public school? In some public schools it certainly is. It’s a federal crime to violate a federal court ruling, such as the ruling by federal judge John E. Jones banning criticism of Darwin’s theory in the curriculum of biology classes in Dover, Pennsylvania public schools. Disobeying Judge Jones’ ruling would be a violation of U.S. Code Title 18, Part1, Chapter 21, section 401, which reads:

A court of the United States shall have power to punish by fine or imprisonment, or both, at its discretion, such contempt of its authority, and none other, as— (1) Misbehavior of any person in its presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice; (2) Misbehavior of any of its officers in their official transactions; (3) Disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command. [emphasis mine]
In plain English, you’re not allowed to violate a federal court ruling, and doing so is a federal crime. Judge Jones’ ruling applied formally to the parties in the case, including the Dover School District. In Dover today, if the district requires you to “to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution,” there is a violation of a federal court order, which is a federal crime.

Tags: Evolution

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