Questioning Darwin’s Theory in Your Child’s School: You Have the Right to Remain Silent…

Michael Egnor

We’ve gotten a couple of e-mails challenging my observation in a recent post that questioning Darwin’s theory in a public school is a federal crime. The reader implied that, because there is no federal statute explicitly censoring criticism of Darwin’s theory in public schools, it wasn’t a federal crime to do so. The issue of censorship in science classes in public schools is worth examining more closely.
Is it a federal crime to question Darwin’s theory in a public school? In some public schools it certainly is. It’s a federal crime to violate a federal court ruling, such as the ruling by federal judge John E. Jones banning criticism of Darwin’s theory in the curriculum of biology classes in Dover, Pennsylvania public schools. Disobeying Judge Jones’ ruling would be a violation of U.S. Code Title 18, Part1, Chapter 21, section 401, which reads:

A court of the United States shall have power to punish by fine or imprisonment, or both, at its discretion, such contempt of its authority, and none other, as–
(1) Misbehavior of any person in its presence or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice;
(2) Misbehavior of any of its officers in their official transactions;
(3) Disobedience or resistance to its lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or command. [emphasis mine]

In plain English, you’re not allowed to violate a federal court ruling, and doing so is a federal crime. Judge Jones’ ruling applied formally to the parties in the case, including the Dover School District. In Dover today, if the district requires you to “to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution,” there is a violation of a federal court order, which is a federal crime.
The people of Dover, Pennsylvania are not alone. At the behest of Darwinists, federal judges have silenced criticism of Darwinism in schools in Cobb County, Georgia, and the El Tejon school district in California, which last year was forced into a settlement agreement where they promised never to teach ID again. All of these federal court orders censoring criticism of Darwinism in schools are enforcable by federal law
The issue overlooked in the censorship of criticism of Darwinism in public schools is the right to freedom of speech. Criticism of Darwin’s theory is banned on the pretext of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Whether teaching that ‘Darwin’s theory is a theory, not a fact’ actually is an “Establishment of Religion” — the establishment of a National Church, analogous to the Anglican Church in England — is, to say the least, a dubious proposition. But censorship in public school science classes — the actual criminalization of open discussion of Darwin’s theory — can clearly be understood as a violation of the right to freedom of speech.
My question to Darwinists is this: why don’t you let the normal process of setting public school curriculum decide this issue? Do you really think it should be a federal crime — a violation of a federal court order — to challenge Darwin’s theory in a public school? What about the rights of the school districts to set educational policy that parents desire for their own children in their own schools? What about the right of freedom of speech to question Darwin’s theory in science classes? Why do you take school districts to federal court to obtain injunctions silencing dissent from Darwin’s theory in the classroom, which then makes criticism of Darwin’s theory a federal crime?
It’s not now a federal crime to question Darwinism in all public schools, but that’s a technicality. Indeed, various statewide standards and school districts have required or permitted teaching scientific dissent from Darwinism. Nonetheless, these policies always cause controversy, and Darwin’s theory can’t be seriously questioned by any public school without incurring threats and investigations from the ACLU. Often these threats are empty threats designed to silence dissent from Darwin through scare-tactics, but the climate of fear and intimidation exists nonetheless. This de facto censorship is absolute and is nationwide.
What are your rights when it comes to questioning Darwin’s theory in your child’s school? You have the right to remain silent…

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.