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Understanding Evolution lawsuit dismissed


A lawsuit challenging the Understanding Evolution website on constitutional grounds was dismissed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on March 13, 2006. Understanding Evolution, a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, was originally intended as a resource for teachers; it subsequently expanded to appeal to everyone interested in learning about evolution.

Among the resources for teachers is a brief discussion of the idea, labeled as a misconception, that evolution and religion are incompatible. The website notes, "Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings," and provides a link to NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution.

A California parent, Jeanne E. Caldwell, subsequently filed suit, complaining that the Understanding Evolution website thus endorses a number of religious doctrines, thereby violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by favoring certain religious groups over others. Caldwell is the wife of Larry Caldwell, who also filed [Link broken] a suit against the Roseville Joint Union High School District after it declined to implement his proposals for evolution education.

In granting the motion to dismiss in Caldwell v. Caldwell et al. -- the first defendant is Roy Caldwell, the director of UCMP -- Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton held that the plaintiff failed to allege that she had federal taxpayer standing, failed to sufficiently allege state taxpayer standing, and failed to establish that she suffered a concrete "injury in fact." Since those considerations sufficed for dismissal, Hamilton did not consider the merits of the Establishment Clause claim.