Timothy Sandefur posted Entry 1577 on October 13, 2005 10:22 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1572

Larry Caldwell’s wife Jeanne Caldwell has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the National Science Foundation and UC Berkeley for violating the Establishment Clause. In substance it’s the same complaint that was publicized some time ago on National Review Online, and which, as I explained back then, is absolutely without basis in the law.

According to Caldwell’s press release, the “offending” website “makes the theological claim that ‘most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution.’” This, of course, is not a theological claim at all, no more than it would be to say that “most Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God,” or “Most Jewish groups are made up of Jews.” It is a descriptive statement, which is entirely appropriate in the context of taxpayer-funded education. No Court has ever suggested that the government cannot fund a statement which describes the beliefs of particular religious groups, even if they do so for a reason that parents do not want to hear. The government may declare (or fund other people declaring) that “most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution,” because it is a fact, much like the fact that sun rises in the East, or the fact that the world is round, or the fact that human beings evolved from simpler life forms through a process of natural selection. All of these, being facts, may be stated as such by the government, without violating the First Amendment.

What the Establishment Clause would not permit is for the government to say that some statement within a religious belief is true or false; for instance, to say “those people who have no conflict with the theory of evolution are going to Hell because that contradicts the Bible.” That would violate the Establishment Clause because it would put the state’s imprimatur on the truth or falsehood of a statement within religion. But a statement made outside of the boundaries of religion, which describes particular religious beliefs—say, “in the olden days, Mormons practiced polygamy”—is a perfectly proper thing to say in the classroom. See Epperson v. State of Ark., 393 U.S. 97, 106 (1968) (“While study of religions and of the Bible from a literary and historic viewpoint, presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, need not collide with the First Amendment’s prohibition, the State may not adopt programs or practices in its public schools or colleges which ‘aid or oppose’ any religion. This prohibition is absolute.” (citations omitted)). And if it’s okay in the classroom, then it’s okay on a website that is only distantly related to any sort of government seal of approval.

But the press release goes on in describing this crime against the First Amendment: “this is illustrated by a cartoon depicting a scientist shaking hands with a pastor holding a Bible with a cross on it.” Holy cow! (Er, I mean, entirely secular cow.) Of course, there is nothing whatsoever unconstitutional about the government funding a website that objectively describes a fact about the religious community and then illustrates it with a picture that includes a cross. It says a lot about the intellectual honesty of those behind such lawsuits as this that they and their allies would at once argue that it is an offense to the Constitution to remove religious symbolism from government proclamations, but at the same time that it offends the Constitution to respectfully state a fact about religious communities.

Again, the press release: “A core claim of many evolutionists is that the origin of all life forms through evolution, including humans, was ‘unplanned’ and ‘undirected’. This claim clearly contradicts the teaching of all of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, that life on earth and people were created on purpose for a purpose.” So what? A core claim of many religious people is that Islam and Hinduism are false religions and that their adherents are destined for eternal damnation, but that hardly makes it unconstitutional for the Smithsonian to have a display on Islamic art or a website stating the facts about what Hindus believe. There are many people who do not agree with Mrs. Caldwell that evolution “clearly contradicts the teaching of all the world’s major religions,” and it is not unconstitutional for the government to fund the creation of a website that says that. What is the government supposed to do? Suppress that information so as to “manipulate” the views of students? But that is just what this lawsuit claims to oppose.

This lawsuit is a baseless, frivolous waste of taxpayer money and ought to be dismissed immediately.

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Comment #52151

Posted by Flint on October 13, 2005 9:57 AM (e)

Who is Larry Caldwell? What is the actual purpose of the lawsuit? Since it’s surely as obvious to Caldwall as to you that the suit lacks any merit and will get tossed without a second thought, I presume this is another attempt at PR: it makes a claim the target audience wants to hear, and contributes to the position that the legal system is “out to get Christians”. Is that all?

Comment #52167

Posted by Steve Reuland on October 13, 2005 11:27 AM (e)

Larry Caldwell has a history of filing baseless lawsuits on behalf of the creationist agenda. (See here and links contained therein.)

The fact that the suit has no chance of winning doesn’t matter. The point is to force your opponents to react, to waste their time and resources, and to make it harder for them to operate freely since they have the constant threat of lawsuit hanging over them. In other words, the point is to be a nuisance. That’s why they’re called “nuisance suits”.

Comment #52172

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on October 13, 2005 11:45 AM (e)

Oh, now, now, Mr. Reuland. It can’t possibly be a nuisance suit, because we know that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b) states that “By presenting to the court…a pleading, written motion, or other paper, an attorney or unrepresented party is certifying that…it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation; [and that] the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law….”

And we know that the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Professional Responsibility canon DR 7-102(A) says that “a lawyer shall not file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defense, delay a trial, or take other action on behalf of his client when he knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another,” or “advance a claim or defense that is unwarranted under existing law, except that he may advance such a claim or defense if it can be supported by good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.”

So it couldn’t possibly be that.

Comment #52173

Posted by Rich on October 13, 2005 11:50 AM (e)

Over at “crash landing” D*mbski is creaming his proverbial pants.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/396

Comment #52184

Posted by Arden Chatfield on October 13, 2005 1:28 PM (e)

A core claim of many evolutionists is that the origin of all life forms through evolution, including humans, was ‘unplanned’ and ‘undirected’. This claim clearly contradicts the teaching of all of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, that life on earth and people were created on purpose for a purpose.

A minor point, but she has her head up her butt here at least as regards Buddhism. There’s nothing in Buddhism that says that “life on earth and people were created on purpose for a purpose.”

This shouldn’t surprise us, tho, given the fundies’ track record on keeping themselves as ignorant as possible about all other religions.

But it is amusing how fundamentalist Christians revile Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism constantly, and yet they’ll still try to claim common cause with them when they see a cheap way to score political points.

Comment #52186

Posted by lamuella on October 13, 2005 1:48 PM (e)

I think we should take him at his word on this one.

He’s right. It is unconstitutional for government agencies to mention religion.

Thus religious education is now barred from schools.

Thus any suggestion of teaching so obviously a religious subject as Intelligent Design is obviously out of the question

Comment #52189

Posted by Ed Darrell on October 13, 2005 2:01 PM (e)

Arden Chatfield: As far as that goes, there’s nothing in the statement that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago which says people were created on purpose and for a purpose. Nor is there anything in the Bible which says the Earth is young, when it was created, or that anyone should think they can caclulate the age of the Earth by calculating the age of a few humans in the Bible.

Doesn’t California have a rule on nuisance suits that the court can use?

Has the court, or Discovery Institute, checked to see whether Caldwell served anyone with papers?

Do I smell a “dismissed with prejudice” here?

Comment #52193

Posted by ChetBob on October 13, 2005 2:09 PM (e)

Was gonna leave a comment on the Dembski blog, but I dont have a password. In typical form, the creationists dont want any contrary ideas popping in. The comment section there is fascinating - how tightly they hew to the ID vocabulary, carefully avoiding admitting any details of their actual personal beliefs. Its creepy.

“What I dont want is you misleading or confusing my kid by teaching him your religion in science class disguised as a fake scientific controversy. Just show me one repeatable scentific experiment or hypothesis supporting ID.”

Comment #52195

Posted by Dave Cerutti on October 13, 2005 2:41 PM (e)

The best stuff I’ve heard about Caldwell was that (paraphrase)

[quote]He’s just a mild-mannered young man, eager to make a career for himself. He respectfully approached Eugenie Scott and asked her to retract the false statements, but when she refused he used the only option available to him. It took the courts to get her to admit her lies![/quote]

That last sentence is verbatim. I think the real perception about Scott amongst this crowd is that she rides her broom to the hospital every other week to treat that big wart on her nose. I asked “well, if Caldwell is such a nice guy, why didn’t he simply write to the same venue to clarify his view,s and leave it at that? At the very least, why didn’t he inform her that the lawsuit had been retracted?” No response. I think the paucity of shame has entered a positive feedback loop with the bloviations.

And, ChetBob, if you ever do get a password, you’re going to be banned within a few hours of posting anything negative (perhaps even anything not fawning) on Dembski’s site. He’s announced that policy.

Comment #52199

Posted by Rich on October 13, 2005 2:51 PM (e)

Kudos to whoever crafted this gem in his oops I’ve said ID is religeous thread:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/391#comments

“Avocationist,

Any book on ID is easy to read. The science of ‘design inference’ doesn’t require much math, more theology than biology, metaphysics in lieu of physics (which is math heavy)and toss in a bit of Oral Roberts, just for good measure. Libraries are a poor source for ID research, however The Discovery Institute and its affiliates provide websites containing all you need to know about ID, the theory, the science and the notable researchers involved in the development of ‘Design Theory’. Only take an hour or so and you will be an expert.
You do have to be religious, very religious and Christian is the best. All ‘that’ information is referenced or linked quite well on the sites.
God’s Speed. “

Comment #52214

Posted by Joel Sax on October 13, 2005 5:13 PM (e)

I think Caldwell’s grandstanding exposes his motive – to take over the government by forcing it to take a stand on religious issues.

If they were to win here, you can rest assured that they would turn the Government into an Inquisition machine.

Hopefully, this will be thrown out of court.

Comment #52216

Posted by Arden Chatfield on October 13, 2005 5:19 PM (e)

“Avocationist,
Any book on ID is easy to read. The science of ‘design inference’ doesn’t require much math, more theology than biology, metaphysics in lieu of physics (which is math heavy)and toss in a bit of Oral Roberts, just for good measure. Libraries are a poor source for ID research, however The Discovery Institute and its affiliates provide websites containing all you need to know about ID, the theory, the science and the notable researchers involved in the development of ‘Design Theory’. Only take an hour or so and you will be an expert.
You do have to be religious, very religious and Christian is the best. All ‘that’ information is referenced or linked quite well on the sites.
God’s Speed. “

Should we take bets to see how long it is before Dembski has that comment wiped?

Comment #52225

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 13, 2005 6:19 PM (e)

So much for that whole “ID isn’t about religion” thingie, huh.

Comment #52253

Posted by M. Child on October 13, 2005 10:31 PM (e)

one can’t help but notice the level of anger and aggression boiling its way out of the ID movement in the past year. was not so long ago that the scientific and creationist camps viewed each other as holding worldviews that were wrong or even looney, but treated each other politely and with respect. in fairness to the creationist side, there was a lot of good Christian warmth and decency going around, and you couldn’t help but like these folks even if you disagreed with them. and as much as they would have thought those of us on the side of evolution were eternally damned, they were not giving up hope for us. all of which is to say, the very idea of suing educational websites or slapping evolution’s defenders with frivolous personal lawsuits would have shamed the entire camp.

with the ID folks, however, things are plainly different. they are not the kind good souls of yore, but angry to the point of being vicious, and openly proud of their viciousness. you see this in the way they applaud rather than shame a thug like Caldwell for his antics. and I encourage all to read any of his pleadings – even to a non-lawyer the guy can only come across as someone who has difficulty tying his shoes. the fact that any literate person would want to associate themselves with this obvious nutcase is, well, an interesting point in itself….)

when Caldwell filed (but apparently never served and then silently abandoned) his slapsuit against NCSE and Eugenie Scott, the Discovery Institute put Caldwell’s own self-aggrandizing press release up on its website. and now we have another litigation blunder from the same self-lawyering loon, and rather than distance himself from it with a “hey, guy, you’re sort of embarassing us over here!” Dembski gives the stunt favorable press on his own website.

if it were only Dembski it might not be such a big deal. his famous willingness to unleash his anger even at his own supporters led to his professional downfall at Baylor. problem is his anger is just further contributing to an already thuggish component of the ID movement. I’m really worried about this. what’s next - demonstrations and physical violence against NCSE, the NSF, the AAAS, and scientists in general?

when someone throws a molotov through the windows of a bio sciences building, will Dembski applaud this and egg his supporters on to more of the same?

Comment #52256

Posted by Steve Reuland on October 13, 2005 10:59 PM (e)

when Caldwell filed (but apparently never served and then silently abandoned) his slapsuit against NCSE and Eugenie Scott, the Discovery Institute put Caldwell’s own self-aggrandizing press release up on its website. and now we have another litigation blunder from the same self-lawyering loon, and rather than distance himself from it with a “hey, guy, you’re sort of embarassing us over here!” Dembski gives the stunt favorable press on his own website.

The fun thing is, the Discovery Institute makes the eye-popping claim that to teach ID is to protect free speech. Yet they support a guy whose M.O. is to file lawsuits against those who say things he doesn’t like. And his lawsuits aren’t limited to public schools, where the teachers are representatives of the state and therefore have obvious limitations on what they can teach. His most recent two were against people who authored a magazine article and a website, places where “free speech” truly applies.

I have to wonder sometimes just what the DI people would do if they truly had free reign to determine what people could and couldn’t say. Scary thought.

Comment #52257

Posted by Arden Chatfield on October 13, 2005 11:18 PM (e)

with the ID folks, however, things are plainly different. they are not the kind good souls of yore, but angry to the point of being vicious, and openly proud of their viciousness. you see this in the way they applaud rather than shame a thug like Caldwell for his antics.

We’re in the Karl Rove era. The last 5 years have lowered the bar for acceptable public behavior very very low. There’s now a consensus on the right that thuggery is perfectly fine – moral, even – because it gets you what you want.

and I encourage all to read any of his pleadings — even to a non-lawyer the guy can only come across as someone who has difficulty tying his shoes. the fact that any literate person would want to associate themselves with this obvious nutcase is, well, an interesting point in itself….)

I think the problem is the ID/Creationist types all expected to have won by now. They didn’t think that by 2005 they’d still be slugging away in the courts and still being laughed at. They believed Bush when he told them he’d give them everything they wanted, and back in the 80’s and 90’s they all assumed they’d have ‘dominion’ by now. So from their point of view things are horribly overdue. They got their expectations way up and the frustration is making them crazy.

Comment #52259

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on October 14, 2005 1:01 AM (e)

One correction, M. Child: evidently Mr. Caldwell is being represented by the Pacific Justice Institute. I’m very sorry to see this; PJI is a public interest legal foundation with which I have been allied in many cases on which I’ve worked. But this time, they’re definitely barking up the wrong tree.