Selman v. Cobb County School District

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In 2004, the ACLU filed Selman v. Cobb County School District.[1] The plaintiffs were five parents in the Georgia school district. If the plaintiffs prevailed, the school district would be forced to pay their lawyer costs.

The ACLU argued [2] that the district had violated the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by putting stickers in biology textbooks that said, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."[3]

An Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court) brief was filed by several organizations opposing the open thought evolution disclaimer put on Cobb County biology books.[4] They argued that "Intelligent Design advocates misrepresent evolutionary science", and that "there is no genuine scientific controversy over the validity of evolution".

The trial judge ruled in favor of the ACLU,[3] but his ruling was vacated on appeal due to irregularities in the handling of evidence and its preservation in the court records.[5] The case was remanded to district court for a retrial, but was settled out of court prior to that retrial. An Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court) brief was filed by Foundation for Moral Law, Inc. in support of the defendants and in support of reversal. They argued that the constitutionality of the stickers placed on science textbooks should be determined by the text of the first amendment, not "judicially-fabricated tests", because the Constitution is the supreme Law of the Land, and "the Lemon test and other constitutional counterfeits foment hostility toward religion and its adherents"; that the school board's placement of a sticker on certain science textbooks is not a "law respecting an establishment of religion"; and that the textbook stickers did not violate the text of the Georgia Constitution.[6]

The case was eventually settled. The school district agreed to remove the stickers, to avoid altering science textbooks or making "any disclaimers regarding evolution", and to teach the state Board of Education's core curriculum, which includes evolution, although that wasn't under dispute in the original suit. In addition, they paid $166,669.12 to Atlanta law firm Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore for their charges in bringing the case to trial.[7][8]


  1. ACLU: Parents Challenge Evolution Disclaimer In Georgia Textbooks
  2. ACLU Pretrial Brief in Selman et al v. Cobb County, 11/12/2004
  3. 3.0 3.1 Judge's Decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District
  4. Amicus Curiae of Several Pro-Evolution Groups, Selman v. Cobb County School District [1]
  5. Appeal Decision, Selman v. Cobb County School District
  6. Amicus Curiae of Foundation for Moral Law, Inc, Selman v. Cobb County School District [2]
  7. "Agreement Ends Textbook Sticker Case", press release from Cobb County School District including settlement agreement [3]
  8. ACLU: Georgia School Board Drops Defense of Anti-Evolution Stickers