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Mother Can’t Sue Over Science-Religion Debate

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A mother of public school children lacks standing to proceed with her claim that a museum Web site called "Understanding Evolution" constitutes a government endorsement of religion by asserting that religion and science can co-exist, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Jeanne Caldwell, whose children go to California public schools, claims she has an interest in knowing how teachers present the theory of evolution in biology classes.

She took offense at "Understanding Evolution," a site created and maintained by the University of California Museum of Paleontology, because it allegedly presents religious beliefs and evolutionary theory on equal footing in a page titled "Misconception: 'Evolution and Religion are Incompatible.'"

The page states: "Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. ... The misconception that one has to choose between science and religion is divisive."

Caldwell said the site exposed her to religious messages endorsed by the government, making her feel like an outsider for believing that religious views and evolution theory don't jive.

Judge Rymer agreed with U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton that Caldwell's allegations do not constitute injury.

The three-judge panel explained that the harm she allegedly suffered was "too generalized and remote" to confer standing against the university faculty responsible for the site and its content.

"While people inside and outside the academy may (and do) take different views in the ongoing debate over whether science and religion may co-exist, Caldwell's offense is no more than an 'abstract objection' to how the University's Web site presents the subject."

The court rejected as moot her claims against the National Science Foundation, which partly funded the site.

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