UC Berkeley Website Case Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

Sacramento, CA – A lawsuit challenging a government-funded website that promotes the harmony of religion and evolution is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The website at the center of the controversy, operated by UC Berkeley and funded by a federal grant, is aimed at public school teachers. The website urges teachers to challenge students’ religious beliefs that evolution contradicts their faith. Moreover, the site points teachers to statements from religious groups and denominations that support evolution, while ignoring religious groups that believe in a literal creation.

Attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute filed a petition with the Supreme Court this week after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff, a mother with children in Northern California public schools, did not have legal standing to challenge the website. By contrast, in most cases involving separation of church and state, the Ninth Circuit has been among the most lenient courts in the nation in allowing lawsuits to proceed. Just last week, in a case allowing atheists and lesbians to sue San Diego for letting the Boy Scouts use a public park, several dissenting Ninth Circuit judge sharply criticized the court’s low threshold for legal standing.

PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit last May, commented, “It’s troubling when the courts decree that some government actions – in this case, taxpayer dollars funding one side of a theological debate about the origins of life – are immune from legal challenge. This decision raises the question to what extent government can get away with constitutional violations via the internet.”

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, stated, ‘We have been committed to this case from the start, because we believe government has no place decreeing that some religious views are more correct than others. We are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will recognize the implications of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and act to reverse it.”