School of Law, Stanford University
Despite the Supreme Court's 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, striking down Arkansas' statute requiring equal time for the teaching of creationism and evolution, the debate over whether some form of creationism should be taught in public schools has recently enjoyed a resurgence. In this note, Jay Wexler applies the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause to a new variant of creationism that posits the existence of an intelligent designer as an alternative to evolution. Wexler argues that teaching intelligent design theory in the public schools violates the Establishment Clause. After explaining that the Supreme Court has always applied the Establishment Clause with extra vigilance in the public school context, Wexler argues that intelligent design, because it posits a being who created life and seeks to answer fundamental questions about human existence, constitutes a religious belief that cannot be constitutionally taught in public schools. Wexler rejects the argument that intelligent design teaches science and not religion on the grounds that whether or not intelligent design teaches a nominally scientific theory, it still violates the Establishment Clause by sending a forbidden message of exclusion to atheists and non-Christians. Finally, Wexler suggests that creationists and evolutionists should recognize the divisiveness caused by disputes over religion and take steps to reduce this divisiveness both inside and outside the classroom.
Jay D. Wexler,
Of Pandas, People, and the First Amendment: The Constitutionality of Teaching Intelligent Design in the Public Schools
Stanford Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/1630