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On June 25, 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Island Trees Board of Education vs. Pico case that the First Amendment limits the power of school boards to remove books from school libraries. The five-to-four decision came after a seven-year legal battle by the ACLU to prevent parental pressure groups and local school officials from capriciously banning books merely because those books disagreed with the philosophy of the banners. The case now returns to federal district court for a trial of the factual issues in the case: whether the Island Trees school board was politically motivated in removing works by Kurt Vonnegut, Bernard Malamud, Jonathan Swift, Langston Hughes, and others on the grounds that they were "anti-American, anti-semetic [sic], anti-Christian, and just plain filthy." The Supreme Court ruling merely established the guidelines upon which the matters of fact must be tried.
The importance of this case for those combating creationism is clear. Parents and school boards may not, on political or religious grounds, remove evolution books (whether scientific or philosophical) from public school libraries. This protects these materials from censorship. But one must remember that censorship cannot work the other way either. Creationist books that have found their way into public school libraries will also have to be left alone. It is only in the area of the curriculum that those opposing creationism can act, because it is unconstitutional for creationists to promote religion in the classroom or to entangle the schools in religious matters. Furthermore, it is possible to remove the teaching of any pseudoscience on purely academic grounds without practicing censorship. This is because it is the business of education to teach the "state of the art" in any given discipline, and thus educational institutions are under no obligation to give "equal time" or "balanced treatment" for outdated theories.
In mid-February of this year, U.S. Congressman Fortney H. Stark conducted a survey of the opinions of the voters in his district (East San Francisco Bay area of California, including the cities of Livermore and Oakland). The results of his survey were published in the June 2 edition of the Congressional Record. Out of 7,840 respondents to his questionnaire, 62.1 percent answered "No" to the question, "Do you believe that, when teaching evolution, the teaching of the theory of creationism should be required by law?" Only 37.9 percent answered "Yes." Thus, in his district at least, the majority of the voters oppose "balanced treatment" for creationism. Stark, himself, is an opponent of creationist efforts.
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