Antievolution lawsuit dismissed in West Virginia

09.09.2015

A federal lawsuit contending that teaching evolution in West Virginia's public schools is unconstitutional is over. In the decision (PDF) in Smith v. Jefferson County School Board et al., issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on August 25, 2015, the defendants' motions to dismiss the case were granted. The complaint was dismissed with prejudice, so the plaintiff is not able to file the claim again.

In his original complaint, Kenneth Smith, representing himself, alleged that the defendants "fostered the propagation of religious faith" in the state's public schools by "denying the Plaintiff's accurate scientific mathematical system of genetic variations that proves evolution is a religion" and asked for the court to "declare the policy of evolution, as to be violating of the United States Constitutional Amendments [sic]."

The defendants — the Jefferson County School Board; Michael Martirano, the West Virginia state superintendent of schools; Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health; Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education; and the Department of Education itself — argued that Smith failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and the federal defendants argued moreover that Smith lacked standing to sue them.

In granting the defendants' motions to dismiss the case, the court noted that Smith is in effect asking "the Court to mandate that public schools in Jefferson County teach the Plaintiff's theories of science and religion, which, to put it mildly, are antagonistic to the theory of evolution," adding, "This court cannot order the West Virginia Defendants to instruct students in a manner that would violate the Constitution."

In 2007, Smith sued the Jefferson County School Board for failing to teach his views; in 2010, he sued the NIH and the state of West Virginia for endorsing evolution as a type of "ideology scientific religious belief"; in 2011, he sued the Postmaster General, the NIH, and the Department of Education, alleging that he suffered unlawful employment discrimination after expressing his views about evolution. All of these cases were dismissed.