Judge Rules Against Intelligent Design

STAFF REPORTS
YorkDispatch

A federal judge ruled this morning that intelligent design is not a scientific theory and it should not be taught to public school.

U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III also ordered the Dover Area School District and its board to repeal its policy that mandates mention of the controversial movement in science classes.

In a 139-page, strongly worded opinion, the judge said that Darwin's theory of evolution isn't perfect, but nonetheless found that intelligent design is rooted in creationism and violates the separation of church and state.

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 through evolution as described by 19th-century English biologist Charles Darwin.

“To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation of every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

Going further, he blasted former board members Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham, writing that they “lied in their Jan. 3, 2005, depositions.”

“The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the ID (intelligent design) policy,” Jones wrote in another portion of the decision. “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purposed behind the ID policy.”

Pepper Hamilton law firm attorney Eric Rothschild, one of several attorneys representing a group of parents who sued the school board, told a room full of reporters in a press conference today that the former school board members were “selfish.”

“They imposed their own religious viewpoint on a community that has diverse beliefs,” he said. “And they did that without any investigation or research about what they were presenting to the students as science. It was all about getting their religious views into the school curriculum.”

Alan Bonsell, who was voted out of office the week after the trial ended, said he wasn't dishonest.

“I didn't lie,” he said this afternoon when contacted at the automobile repair shop where he works. “Obviously, he's not talking about me. I wouldn't do that. It's not something I would do.”

Bonsell said he was disappointed about the judge's decision.

“Intelligent design, to me and everyone on the (former) board, is science, but that's his (the judge's) decision.”

Eleven Dover Area School District parents filed a federal lawsuit against the school and its school board last December, about two months after the board voted to include a statement about intelligent design in its ninth-grade biology classes.

The parents, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the board had religious motives for putting the policy in place.

The school district and its board are being defended by Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based law firm that works to defend the rights of Christians, according to its Web site.

The non-jury trial started Sept. 26 and was completed Nov. 4.

A week after the end of the trial, Dover Area voters ousted seven of eight incumbent school board members, all of whom favored mentioning intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in science class.

The newly elected board members, candidates from the citizens group Dover CARES (Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies) are opposed to mentioning intelligent design in science classes.

Dover CARES candidates ran on a platform of teaching intelligent design in an elective course, not a required class, if it is to be mentioned in school.

Because the results of the election were contested, a re-vote will be held Jan. 3 to determine the winner of an eighth seat. Running are CARES candidate Bryan Rehm, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, and incumbent James Cashman.

Click here to read the full decision. (.pdf)