In Webster v. New Lenox School District, a school teacher brought an action claiming that the school district violated his First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from teaching creationism in his classroom. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that the prohibition did not violate the teacher’s rights. First, the court noted that authorities charged by state law with curriculum development, such as the school board, require the obedience of employees and teachers. This requirement is even more important in junior high schools where the students’ intellectual development is at a relatively immature stage. In addition to the general principle that a teacher has no right to ignore the directives of duly appointed educational authorities, the teacher’s actions here presented Establishment Clause concerns; the Establishment Clause prevents even a school board from adopting a curriculum that requires instruction in religious dogma. Because the teacher’s desire to provide instruction in creationism exceeded both the school board’s directives and the dictates of the Establishment Clause, the court found that the board’s policy did not violate his First Amendment rights.
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