Breaking Glass

The Georgia Atrocity

Michael Stokes Paulsen, a learned professor at the University of Minnesota, is a connoisseur of legal atrocities.  In a recent article in the Notre Dame Law Review, he tries to award the palm for “The Worst Constitutional Decision of All Time,” while he teaches a course on “Atrocious Cases.”  In the spirit of Dr. Paulsen’s work, I would like to suggest some candidates for his consideration.  I will resist proposing decisions that are merely incompetent, incoherent, or plain stupid.  In order to achieve the full status of legal atrocity, a case must have social or legal implications that are wide, potentially devastating, and downright frightening.

And I already have a fine candidate.  This January, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ordered the Cobb County school district to remove stickers it had placed in biology texts that made the following statement:

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.

This decision was received along predictable political and cultural lines, with social conservatives generally denouncing it, and liberals and secularists praising the court’s decisive reassertion of evolution in science...

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