From the Classroom to the Courtroom: Intelligent Design and the Constitution

Jay D. Wexler, Boston University School of Law


Although the Supreme Court of the United States has never developed a single clear test for determining what kinds of state action violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, schools that attempt to teach or introduce intelligent design as a purportedly scientific alternative to evolution likely fall afoul of the First Amendment's commands. Under the Court's most relevant precedent, Edwards v. Aguillard, teaching intelligent design violates the Establishment Clause because, among other things, there is an enormous disconnect between the purpose of teaching intelligent design and its effect. Moreover, public school teachers do not possess any First Amendment right of academic freedom to disregard the clear instructions of a school principal or district not to teach or introduce intelligent design in their classrooms.