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School board to appeal ruling to remove evolution stickers

Atlanta (Georgia)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A suburban Atlanta school district Monday decided to appeal a federal judge's ruling that it must remove from biology textbooks stickers that refer to evolution as "a theory not a fact."

The board voted 5-2 in favor of the appeal after a three-hour executive session of the Cobb County School Board.

Chairman Kathie Johnstone said last week's ruling by U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper amounted to "unnecessary judicial intrusion into local control of schools."

Cooper's ruling said the stickers, inserted in all the high school biology textbooks in the county in 2002, are religiously motivated and violate the Constitution's separation of church and state.

"The distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case," Cooper wrote last Thursday, ordering the stickers removed.

Johnstone said at the executive session the board felt the court has condemned it "for taking a reasonable approach to address the concerns of its citizens on a controversial issue."

The chairman said the appeal will be pursued "at no additional cost to the district or Cobb County taxpayers," but did not say who would pay the legal costs.

The original lawsuit was brought against the Cobb County School District and Board of Education by five parents of district students.

Cooper's ruling said that the board's endorsement of the stickers implies that it "agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists." And he wrote that labeling evolution a "theory" played on the popular definition of the word as a "hunch" and could confuse students.

"Due to the manner in which the sticker refers to evolution as a theory, the sticker also has the effect of undermining evolution education to the benefit of those Cobb County citizens who would prefer that students maintain their religious beliefs regarding the origin of life," the judge wrote.

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