"I still get my hate mail. I do hear about it. It’s amazing to me how much it’s still brought up." -- Tammy Kitzmiller, one of the
"I still get my hate mail. I do hear about it. It's amazing to me how much it's still brought up." -- Tammy Kitzmiller, one of the plaintiffs who fought to keep intelligent design out of science classes in Dover

Tammy Kitzmiller's family jokingly refers to Dec. 20 as "Kitzmas."

Five years ago on that day, U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III handed down a 139-page ruling on her eponymous case, Kitzmiller v. Dover.

The case made Kitzmiller -- and Dover -- world famous in a legal battle versus Dover Area school board on whether intelligent design could be taught as an accepted scientific theory.

The battle ended with Jones banning Dover schools from ever enforcing an intelligent design policy and ruled intelligent design is religion, not science.

Kitzmiller's daughter was in one of the ninth-grade biology classes in which students were read a statement about intelligent design's being an alternative theory to evolution.

Kitzmiller was one of 11 people who sued the school board, saying it had religious motives for putting in place a policy requiring the statement.

Intelligent design says living things are so complicated they had to have been created by a higher being, that life is too complex to have developed by the method described by 19th-century biologist Charles Darwin.

Many of the participants, particularly on the plaintiffs' side, say they still keep in touch and even have reunions. Dec. 20 is a date circled on the calendar.

Jones still shakes his head in thinking how big the case got, too.

"I think for all of us who participated in the trial, it became part of the fabric of our lives," he said.

The defendants, however, seem to want to keep their distance from a trial.

Alan Bonsell, a school board member who was accused by Jones of lying on the witness stand, said only that he "did not want to talk about that anymore" and declined to further discuss the case when reached recently in person. Several others have refused to talk as well.

Kitzmiller doesn't want to talk much about the trial that made her famous, either. That's

not a surprise, considering she said she originally was hoping to remain anonymous and be referred to as "Jane Doe."

"It's kind of hard to embrace it. I know it was very important. I tried to move on. It does not define who I am," Kitzmiller said.

Although she's tried to move on, some supporters of intelligent design have not.

"I still get my hate mail. I do hear about it. It's amazing to me how much it's still brought up," Kitzmiller said.

The entire ordeal still doesn't seem quite real, she said. But she still very much remembers certain dates, from Sept. 26, a day "burned on my mind" as the start of the trial, to Dec. 20, the day the decision came down.

Participants' thoughts: Many of the key participants of the case were contacted this month to recall their memories of the trial, how it affects them now and what has changed in the debate on teaching intelligent design.

Witold "Vic" Walczak is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen.

So when he got the opportunity -- twice -- to meet The Boss because of his connection to the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, he jumped on it.

"There are a lot of wonderful things that happened," because of that case, Walczak said.

Walczak, who works for the ACLU, served as an attorney for the plaintiffs during the trial.

The case has gone well beyond brief celebrity for him, though. He believes the legal precedent, even if it wasn't at a Supreme Court level, endures today.

That doesn't mean cases haven't cropped up, or another groundbreaking case won't happen over intelligent design, he said. But it at least slowed things down.

Intelligent design supporters have "evolved, pun intended," he said.

"They are evolving their strategy, morphing it," he said. They'll figure out new ways to avoid words like "creationism," Walczak believes.

They still will have to contend with the ramifications of Kitzmiller, he said, a case that was bigger "than any of us ever dreamed it would've been."

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U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III never felt the need to defend his decision.

He believes his 139-page ruling speaks for itself.

"I understand the criticisms that were lodged against me," said Jones, who still serves on the bench five years after he presided over the Kitzmiller v. Dover case.

"The decision seems to be holding up well ... No other school district has engaged in this kind of a battle. I hope that's a product of the decision and perhaps the way that I wrote the decision," he continued.

The case has been referred to in similar disputes around the country, such as a recent science textbook legal battle in Louisiana.

He said the trial showed that some people who support intelligent design don't fully understand evolution. And if a school board anywhere in the country does want to consider adding intelligent design in the curriculum, they need only look at his written decision, he said.

"They may agree or disagree, but at least they can see, in an encapsulated form, the proof, at least the way I saw it, that favors evolution. And they can see the proof, or lack thereof, as it relates to ID," he said.

Jones has tried to use the case as a springboard to helping the public understand just what it is a judge does. It was evident in the aftermath of Kitzmiller that they are under a wrong impression, he said.

"What it's done for me, it made me understand, above everything else, that my fellow citizens don't have a real good understanding of how the judicial branch works ... People think we're political," said Jones, who has given dozens of speeches on the topic in the past five years.

As a man from Schuylkill County, "that I'd be in Time magazine, let alone on the cover of Time magazine, is still something I reflect on. It seems like it happened to somebody else," he said. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of 2005.

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William Buckingham says he has a $100 bill ready for any person who can point to any part of the Constitution that mentions a "separation of church and state."

Buckingham was a Dover school board member who was one of the primary supporters of including intelligent design in the science curriculum. The way he sees it five years later, the board didn't lose the Kitzmiller case.

"It was taken away from us. The judge certainly didn't follow the Constitution," said Buckingham, who resides in York City now.

Buckingham said he doesn't hold a grudge, but he just wishes Jones had more carefully parsed the Constitution.

"If we would've known we weren't going to get a fair shake, an honest reading of the Constitution ... we probably wouldn't have done this," he said of the board. "We were right. That's why we didn't back out."

Buckingham said he still carries a copy of the Constitution in his briefcase in the event anyone claims there's a mention of the separation of church and state.

Not that he regularly thinks of the trial, though.

"There's too many important things in life in the here and now. You can't live in the past. We did the best we could. We got shafted," Buckingham said.

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Dover Area Senior High School biology teacher Jennifer Miller doesn't hear her students talking about the Kitzmiller decision in the halls. Teachers don't talk about it, either.

But its impact is evident in her classroom. Evolution used to be the last unit she taught each semester.

"Now I teach it first and make sure I emphasize it. And I keep referring to it, to show them how important evolution is to biology," said Miller, who testified at the trial.

"I really stress what is science and what is not science, and why intelligent design fails," from a science standpoint, Miller said.

That's not to say religious beliefs are wrong, she said. She teaches students they can view the creation of the world from either a scientific view or a religious point of view.

"It's just two different ways to explain it. One's scientific, one's not scientific," she said.

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Michael Behe said he doesn't hear anybody talk about Kitzmiller v. Dover anymore.

Behe, a biochemist and professor at Lehigh University, testified as an expert witness in support of intelligent design. "I don't hear anybody talk about it ... except the guys on the side who won," Behe said.

"It's an interesting legal event," he said in reflection. "But it doesn't affect the science. The scientific case for intelligent design keeps getting stronger."

In the five years since, Behe said scientists are discovering how complex cells are beyond previous understanding, and he believes that helps support intelligent design as a valid scientific theory.

Not that any of that would have affected Jones' ruling, Behe said.

"It didn't seem to me the judge understood any of the scientific evidence anyway," Behe said.

Jones discounted Behe's testimony, Behe said.

"There was a disconnect between how I thought I did on the witness stand, and how my testimony was characterized by the judge," he said. "It really soured me on the legal system."

If presented with the opportunity again, though, he'd be back on the stand. Intelligent design supporters have to participate, he said, or "people will think we were afraid to show up."

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Barbara Forrest testified recently in Louisiana on what kind of science textbooks students should have.

Intelligent design supporters wanted to see the inclusion of ID in the textbooks.

Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, simply pointed to a trial she had also testified in five years earlier: Kitzmiller v. Dover.

In that trial, Forrest testified against teaching intelligent design as a scientific theory.

"We need to remind people that we have now a federal court precedent that applies explicitly to ID. The next time there is a court case, the first thing that judge is going to do is look at that case," Forrest said.

Forrest calls helping the plaintiffs "one of the proudest things" she's accomplished in her life.

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"It seems like it was only yesterday," Brown University professor Kenneth Miller reminisced.

Miller testified against intelligent design as a scientific theory. He can still remember exactly what happened when he heard the ruling on a train in New England.

"I couldn't believe how sweeping the decision was. And there was a woman sitting beside me. She overheard me talking about (intelligent design) and she asks me about it ... and then the guy in front turns around and says, 'Was that that case about ID?'" he recalled.

Soon enough, Miller had a small crowd on a train several states away from Dover talking to him about the trial.

"That's when I realized how big this thing was," Miller said.

In the years since, he has seen the ruling come to the defense of evolution.

"When evolution comes under attack, people are able to point to the Kitzmiller trial. There was a complete absence of scientific evidence for intelligent design," he said.

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Bryan Rehm, a plaintiff; Cynthia Sneath, a plaintiff and board member; Angie Yingling, a defendant; and Jeff and Casey Brown, former Dover board members who resigned at the time, did not return calls seeking comment.Officials at the Discovery Institute, which helped support the defendants' cause, and Richard Nilsen, Dover's superintendent at the time and the current superintendent at Eastern Lebanon County School District, were not available.

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at 505-5431, ashaw@yorkdispatch.com or twitter.com/ydblogwork.