Evolutionary Due Process

Virelli, Louis J., III | January 17, 2010

The issue of evolution instruction in American public schools is becoming increasingly complex, both legally and politically. Until recently, the controversy over whether and how to teach evolution in public school science classes has been singularly focused on the constitutional limits of government support for religion under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Current measures in Louisiana and Texas, however, represent a shift toward a new “adjudicative model” for addressing questions of evolution instruction. This adjudicative model permits individual educators to treat evolution issues on a case-by-case basis, which, in turn, implicates a new constitutional issue in the evolution education debate: procedural due process. By creating powerful disincentives for anti-evolutionist policymakers, procedural due process concerns could affect the future of evolution education even more profoundly than does the Establishment Clause. This Essay explores the relationship between evolution education policy and procedural due process by first identifying and defining the adjudicative model. It then considers the model’s constitutional ramifications for evolution instruction, concluding that this new approach to policymaking introduces procedural due process concerns that radically alter the legal and political calculus of the debate over evolution education.