(CN) – The 5th Circuit refused to revive the constitutional claims of a former Texas science curriculum director who was fired after she forwarded an email to “help get the word out” about a presentation criticizing creationism in public schools.
Christina Castillo Comer had challenged the constitutionality of the Texas Education Agency’s neutrality policy.
Under that policy, TEA employees cannot “advocate a particular position on [curriculum] issues under deliberation, or participate in any way that could compromise the agency’s ability to fairly and accurately implement the policy choices” by the Texas State Board of Education.
While working for the agency, Comer received an email in 2007 notifying her about an upcoming event called “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” a presentation that would be critical of teaching creationism in public schools. She promised the email’s sender that she would “help get the word out,” and forwarded the email to 36 science teachers in the Austin area and leaders of science teacher organizations.
She was later fired for violating the TEA’s neutrality policy.
Comer sued, claiming the policy violated her due process rights and had the “effect of endorsing religion.”
But a federal judge dismissed her claims, and the federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected her appeal.
“The fact that Comer and other TEA employees cannot speak out for or against possible subjects to be included in the curriculum – whether the considered subjects relate to the study of mathematics, Islamic art, creationism, chemistry, or the history of the Christian Crusades – their silence does not primarily advance religion, but rather, serves to preserve TEA’s administrative role in facilitating the curriculum review process for the board,” Judge Fortunato Benavides wrote for the three-judge panel.