U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Ban on 44 Textbooks in Alabama Public School System

U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Ban on 44 Textbooks in Alabama Public School System

Judge W. Brevard Hand

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturns a ban on 44 textbooks from the Alabama public schools. The ban was imposed by Mobile, Alabama District Judge William Brevard Hand that the books promoted a godless, humanistic religion.

Today's unanimous decision says that the books only sought to instill values such as tolerance and self-respect — they do not promote a religion of "secular humanism" or an antagonism toward God-centered religions.

In his ruling, Judge W. Brevard Hand cited this passage from the home economics book Teen Guide as an example of how secular humanism is being promoted:

"Nothing was 'meant to be.' You are the designer of your life. If you want something, you can plan and work for it. Nothing is easy. But nothing is impossible, either. When you recognize that you are the one in charge of your life, you will be way ahead of where you would be if you think of your life as something that just happens to you."

In the past, Judge Hand has upheld school prayer as constitutional. In this case, he claimed that school officials violated the rights of the students to an education "free of the establishment of the religion of secularism" and that the book infringed on students' rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The unanimous decision from Judges Thomas A. Clark, Joe Eaton and Frank Johnson says:

"The message conveyed is one of a governmental attempt to instill in Alabama public-school children such values as independent thought, tolerance of diverse views, self-respect, maturity, self-reliance and logical decision making. This is an entirely appropriate secular effort.

The message conveyed by these textbooks with regard to theistic religion is one of neutrality: the textbooks neither endorse theistic religion as a system of belief, nor discredit it. Indeed, many of the books specifically acknowledge that religion is one source of moral values and none preclude that possibility."

Robert Skolrood, the executive director of the National Legal Foundation in Virginia Beach and a representative of the fundamentalist parents who originally sued the school over the books, tells reporters:

"It is clear Christians no longer have equal standing before the court. It is a tragedy that in this year of our Constitution's bicentennial, the court has decided to disenfranchise a majority of Americans."

The National Legal Foundation was founded by Pat Robertson, who says: "This decision of the 11th Circuit Court was not unexpected, given the hostility of the judges and their obvious bias during the oral arguments."

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