After battling a California school district for more than a year over its teaching of evolution, a parent has filed a civil-rights lawsuit in federal court alleging his constitutional rights to free speech, equal protection and religious freedom were violated.
Larry Caldwell’s suit against the Roseville Joint Union High School District and school officials in Sacramento centers on his attempt to introduce a curriculum that changes how the theory of evolution is taught, without introducing religious content.
His “Quality Science Education Policy” and related instructional materials include presentation of scientific weaknesses of evolution in biology classes.
“Currently, only the scientific strengths of evolution are taught in biology classes, with no discussion of the scientific weaknesses or criticism of evolution,” said Caldwell, a practicing lawyer in Sacramento.
But after proposing the curriculum in 2003, Caldwell says officials refused to follow the normal procedures of review and “did everything in their power to prevent any meaningful consideration of my proposals, systematically violating their own stated policies in the process.”
That included “publicly attacking my personal religious beliefs, and even threatening to sue me to stop me from speaking out,” he said.
“These are tactics you’d expect in a banana republic, not the state of California.”
In June, board members voted 3-2 against the curriculum.
Superintendent Tony Monetti could not be reached for comment.
In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Caldwell emphasized there is nothing about religion in the materials.
“We talked about science, and all the other side wanted to talk about was religion,” he said.
Noting he has a law degree from George Washington University, Caldwell said, “I’m not an ignorant anti-science person, by any means.”
“They quickly try to paint you as an ignorant, religious nutcase,” said Caldwell, who acknowledges he is a Christian. “That’s what we’re up against.
“A citizen ought to be able to bring in a science proposal on the merits, without casting him as a religiouis fanatic and marginalizing,” he continued.
The lawsuit asks the court to reform the district’s practices to “ensure that citizens of all political viewpoints and religious beliefs will be able to enjoy their constitutional right to bring education policy proposals before the school board and other school officials on an equal basis, without illegal discrimination.”
Caldwell said that for eight months, district officials repeatedly refused to put his QSE Policy on the school board agenda, contrary to California state law.
He claimed that at an open meeting held to hear parental input on school curricula, officials without any justification banned parents from speaking in favor of his proposal.
Caldwell school board member James Joiner attempted to intimidate him and other parents from exercising their free speech rights by asking the school-district attorney to investigate filing a lawsuit against him.
District officials, he claimed, illegally used their positions to try to discredit and defame him by publicly attacking his personal religious beliefs and spreading false rumors.
At one point, Caldwell said, the district falsely claimed he had asked a school official to distribute a religious tract at a school district meeting. The school district later admitted the allegation was false.