Minnesota Law Review

Note, Fruit of the Poison Tree: A First Amendment Analysis of the History and Character of Intelligent Design Education

Since the famous Scopes Trial in 1925, religious groups have struggled to introduce into public school science education a theory of human origin predicated on a supernatural creator. The latest theory to challenge evolution is Intelligent Design. Although this theory makes no explicit reference to religion or God, it propounds an unidentified supernatural agent who designed all life. As public school districts around the country start to consider adding Intelligent Design to their science curricula, proponents of evolution are claiming that it is merely another inherently religious idea that public schools cannot constitutionally teach.

This Note evaluates the constitutionality of teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes. It applies both the test that the Supreme Court uses to evaluate Establishment Clause challenges in the education context and an alternative test used by some lower courts and commentators.

Intelligent Design is the latest in a long line of religious theories the teaching of which has consistently been struck down by the federal courts. Independent of this historical pedigree, Intelligent Design postulates the inherently religious idea that a supernatural designer created life. Because of this historic link to creationism and inherently religious nature, teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes violates the Establishment Clause.

Additionally, this Note considers and rejects two commonly proposed justifications for teaching Intelligent Design: academic freedom and the furtherance of scientific literacy. However, it concludes with an explanation of how public schools can constitutionally present a comprehensive human origin education while also describing Intelligent Design and the controversy surrounding its teaching.

:: View PDF

De Novo

  • Case Comment: Bhogaita v. Altamonte

    EVERY DOG CAN HAVE HIS DAY IN COURT: THE USE OF ANIMALS AS DEMONSTRATIVE EXHIBITS Kyle R. Kroll, Volume 100, Online Managing Editor In Bhogaita v. Altamonte, the Eleventh Circuit recently decided whether to allow a dog in the courtroom as a demonstrative exhibit.[1] Although the case presented many serious [...]

  • Revisiting Water Bankruptcy

    REVISITING WATER BANKRUPTCY IN CALIFORNIA’S FOURTH YEAR OF DROUGHT Olivia Moe, Volume 100, Managing Editor This spring, as “extreme” to “exceptional” drought stretched across most of California—indicating that a four-year streak of drought was not about to resolve itself[1]—Governor Jerry Brown issued an unprecedented order to reduce potable urban water [...]

  • Defying Auer Deference

    DEFYING AUER DEFERENCE: SKIDMORE AS A SOLUTION TO CONSERVATIVE CONCERNS IN PEREZ v. MORTGAGE BANKERS ASSOCIATION Nicholas R. Bednar, Volume 100, Lead Articles Editor* On March 9, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association.[1]F The Court overturned the D.C. [...]