Perry Says Texas Public Schools Teach Creationism… Which May Be In Violation Of The Constitution

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Campaigning in New Hampshire Thursday, Texas Governor, and GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry claimed that Texas public schools teach both evolution and creationism in their science classes.

Perry described evolution as “a theory that is out there,” telling a young child questioning him that “it’s got some gaps in it.” That’s why, he said, “in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure…because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

There’s just one problem with that: in 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause.The decision in Edwards vs. Aguillard helped inspire the Intelligent Design movement. In the 7-2 decision, the majority opinion contained a caveats: “We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught [and] teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”

It’s plausible that Perry misspoke, and meant to say Texas schools teach both evolution and Intelligent Design — but even that doesn’t quite match the facts.

Conservatives on the Texas Board of Education wanted to greenlight supplemental teaching materials that give weight to Intelligent Design. However, the board recently approved materials silent on Intelligent Design, but that critics charge could pave the way for invalid critiques of evolution nonetheless.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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