As many Montana public school students head back to classes this week, we are grateful that the U.S. Constitution requires that they be taught facts rather than indoctrinated with religious teachings.
Since the Scopes trial, however, many educators and legislators continue to try to incorporate creationism into public school curriculum rather than teaching the science of evolution.
Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment's right to freedom of religion.
In 1987, the state of Louisiana passed a law requiring schools to teach creationism if they taught evolution. That law was quickly challenged, and in Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court said, no.
One-minute Know Your Constitutional Rights podcast on Edwards v. Aguillard.
"The Louisiana Creationism Act," wrote Justice Brennan, "advances a religious doctrine by requiring either the banishment of the theory of evolution from public school classrooms or the presentation of a religious viewpoint that rejects evolution. Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment."
The ACLU of Montana is working to make sure that all Montana public school educators understand students' rights to religious freedom. We've published a booklet and mailed it out to every public school in the state. "Protecting Religious Liberty in Public Schools: A School Official's Guide" explains the law when it comes to teaching evolution, prayer in school, holidays and more.