ATLANTA — A federal appeals court Friday temporarily suspended a federal judge's ruling that ordered Alabama schools to remove 44 textbooks on the grounds that they violated the Constitution because they promoted secular humanism as a religion.
The Alabama Board of Education immediately began telling school officials to return the books to students so they can finish the spring semester.
"Now at least until the appeals court rules and issues its answer, instruction can move ahead," a spokesman for state Supt. of Education Wayne Teague said Friday.
In issuing its stay of the March 4 order by U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand of Mobile, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis.
Tom Parker, a Montgomery attorney for the plaintiffs who won the Hand injunction, said the stay was "just a procedural matter."
"Once they get into the merits, I think they will see that the evidence is all in our favor," Parker said.
Hand ruled that the textbooks approved by the Alabama Board of Education violated the Constitution's separation of church and state because they advanced the ideas of man-centered secular humanism as a religion.
In 114 Systems
State education officials said at least one of the 44 home economics, social studies and history books was used in 114 of Alabama's 129 school systems.
Charles Coody, an attorney for the Alabama school board, called Hand's order for their immediate removal a "Draconian remedy" to the constitutional issue.
"We're delighted the 11th Circuit has taken the action," Coody said Friday. "We are in the process of notifying local superintendents they can now return the textbooks to the schoolchildren in the state."
School officials and administrators in Alabama backed the appeal in the 11th Circuit Court, describing Hand's ruling as "disruptive" to schools.
Hand's ruling came in a lawsuit by 600 parents and teachers who challenged the state's use of the books. The 44 textbooks were published by well-known companies such as Rand McNally, Houghton-Mifflin and McGraw-Hill.
The Mobile County school system, the state's largest, removed the books after the judge's order and others began taking them from students last week.