Cobb County Disclaimers Headed for Trial

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the evolution disclaimer used in Cobb County, Georgia, took a step forward, when a federal judge ruled that the suit could proceed to trial.

The disclaimer, which is affixed inside the books used in Cobb County's public schools, reads, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jeffrey Selman and five other local parents in August 2002, contends that the disclaimer inhibits the teaching of evolution and encourages the teaching of faith-based alternatives to it such as creationism.

The defendants asked to have the suit dismissed. But in an order issued on March 31, 2004, US District Judge Clarence Cooper denied the request.

In his prima facie assessment of the disclaimer's constitutionality, Cooper decided that although the purpose of the disclaimer was arguably secular, it could have the effect of advancing religion, adding that "the practical effect of students being encouraged to consider and discuss alternatives to evolution could implicate excessive entanglement concerns."

The trial is expected to begin later this year.