Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari (meaning they refused to hear the cases, so the lower court decision stands) for two decisions from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction over most western US states.
In the first denial of cert, it upheld Idaho’s decision to bar publicly funded charter schools from using religious texts in teaching. For those of you outside of the US, charter schools are privately run schools that receive public funding. Mostly they don’t have to follow the rules of public schools, but are expected to meet certain standards, such as performance in standardized testing. There has been a lot of criticism of these schools, mainly because there is little oversight. Many of them have engaged in teaching religion, including creationism. The Supreme Courts refusal to review the case means the Idaho decision stands, and the state can prevent charter schools from using religious texts (and probably from teaching religion). Consider this a win for the First Amendment.
In the second denial, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case where a California calculus teacher complained that his right to free speech was violated because the school district ordered him to remove large banners in his classroom that made reference to “god” and a “creator.” Amusingly, his claim also stated that the order violated the Establishment Clause, which says that the government cannot establish a religion. How he is protected by that clause to put up religious banners in a public school stretches logic to the breaking point–a common strategy of religious fundamentalists.
Even though the US Supreme Court is considered a very conservative court, it has not varied in its interpretation of the Constitution that religion has no place in public schools. Since it takes four justices to accept a case, this means that at least six of the nine justices did not support cert. of these cases. This is probably good news for those who intend to fight, in court, the numerous anti-science, pro-religion creationist legislation moving through several southern and midwestern states’ legislatures.
Yay. A win for the rational, secular side. Two wins actually.