AUSTIN (CN) – The longtime director of science curriculum claims the Texas Education Agency illegally fired her because she forwarded an email announcing a lecture by a speaker who opposes teaching creationism in science classes. Christina Castillo Comer claims the TEA’s official “neutral” position on creationism is an unconstitutional dodge to allow Texas public schools to push religion under the guise of science.
Comer was director of science for the TEA’s Curriculum for more than 10 years. She claims the agency fired her in November 2007 “for contravening the Agency’s unconstitutional ‘neutrality’ policy by forwarding an email to other science educators announcing an upcoming lecture about evolution and creationism.”
The federal complaint cites this TEA memorandum recommending that Comer be fired: “On October 26, 2007, Ms. Comer forwarded from her TEA email account to a group of people, including two external email groups, that announced a presentation on creationism and intelligent design entitled ‘Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse.’ The email states that the speaker [Barbara Forrest] is a board member of a science education organization, and the email clearly indicates that the group opposes teaching creationism in public education. …
When Dr. Jackson asked Ms. Comer about this situation, she replied that she was only forwarding information. However, the forwarding of this event announcement by Ms. Comer, as the Director of Science, from her TEA email account constitutes much more than just sharing information. Ms. Comer’s email implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral. Thus, sending this email compromises the agency’s role in the TEKS revision process by creating the perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly related to the science education TEKS.”
Comer says that the TEA does indeed have a biased position on the subject: “Creationism is a religious belief. Teaching creationism as science in public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. … The Texas Education Agency has a policy of purported ‘neutrality’ on teaching creationism as science in public schools. By professing ‘neutrality,’ the Agency credits creationism as a valid scientific theory. Creationism, however, is not a valid scientific theory; it is a religious belief. The Agency’s policy is not neutral at all … The Agency’s ‘neutrality policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and violates the Establishment Clause. …
“Similarly, the Agency’s firing of its Director of Science for not remaining ‘neutral’ on this subject violates the Establishment Clause, because it employs the symbolic and financial support of the State of Texas to achieve a religious purpose. … Finally, the Agency fired Director Comer without according her due process as required by the Fourteenth Amendment – a protection especially important here because Director Comer was fired for contravening an unconstitutional policy.”
The “Dr. Jackson” referred to in the TEA memo is TEA Deputy Associate Administrator for Standards and Alignment Sharon Jackson. Jackson, TEA Curriculum Manager Monica Martinez – who wrote the memo – and Deputy Commissioner for Statewide Programs Lizzette Reynolds “all participated in the firing of Director Comer,” the complaint states. Comer also sued TEA Commissioner Robert Scott.
Comer demands reinstatement and an injunction. She is represented by Judith Bagley with Patton Boggs of Dallas.