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« Huygens to Reach Titan on Friday the 14th The RantsHuygens Lands on Titan! »

Dover Watch - ID Statement Delayed (Plus Cobb County Update!)
2005.01.13 (Thu) 23:45

As reported in the York Daily Record, the Dover, PA evolution disclaimer — a statement to be read to students explaining that evolution is "just a theory," and implying that Intelligent Design is a feasible alternative explanation for the origins of life — originally due to be read today, will now be delayed until at least Monday.

Dover Area educators will not address the issue of intelligent design in biology class Thursday.

Biology teachers at Dover Area High School have not yet reached the chapter that deals with evolution, so the lecture will take place next week, an attorney for the district said Tuesday.

Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center representing the district, said the subject of intelligent design will not come up until Monday and Tuesday.

We'd breathe a sigh of relief if it wasn't for the fact that the delay is simply a result of the science classes having not yet reached the part of the curriculum that covers evolution. Frankly, with all the hoopla that the ID circus has brought into town with them, we're amazed that these students have been able to progress at all this year.

The Panda's Thumb has a post with links to a host of articles and letters concerning the Dover situation and some recent developments. One of these developments was an open letter to the Dover folks by some of the faculty of UPenn arguing against the teaching of Intelligent Design. The Thomas More Law Center, the Evangelical Christian law firm representing the Dover creationists, took it upon themselves to write a response to the UPenn letter for all the world to read. Big mistake. Their response letter is rife with errors, misunderstandings, and half-truths, and it makes them look pretty foolish to anyone even somewhat educated in biology and evolutionary theory. The Panda's Thumb has an outstanding post by Reed A. Cartwright that thoroughly debunks the Thomas More letter, line by line — go read it!

The article in the York Daily Record also contains some more details on the apparent memory loss suffered by some members of the Dover Board of Education during recent depositions aimed at securing an injuction to prevent the reading of the statement. Due to this bizarre and sudden onset of selective amnesia, the injunction was abandoned, which was widely (and inaccurately) reported by numerous religious rags as a near total victory for creationism.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had intended to seek a temporary injunction last week to keep intelligent design out of the biology classes.

However, they were thwarted when school board members denied, in depositions, statements attributed to them last summer by both The York Dispatch and the York Daily Record/York Sunday News.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton, said lawyers were surprised by the denials of what they thought was an "established set of events."

Rothschild said the inconsistencies would not have been easily resolved in a short hearing. However, he said, he expects the plaintiffs' attorneys will be successful in the long run when they take the case to court in the spring.

As we said in our previous Dover Watch Rant, we sincerely hope that the Dover Board members in question stick to their stories once the trial rolls around, and end up being charged with perjury. It would be a fitting fate for these misguided fanatics.

In other related news, a decision was handed down regarding the Cobb County creationism fiasco. In case you've forgotten, Cobb County decided in 2002 to place stickers inside their biology textbooks that read:

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

The Cobb County fundies argued that this was meant to "get past the conflict" between science and religion and "teach good science," but U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper saw through that line. His decision found that the stickers violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that they must be removed. From ABC News:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The disclaimers were put in the books by school officials in suburban Cobb County in 2002.

"Adopted by the school board, funded by the money of taxpayers, and inserted by school personnel, the sticker conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said in his 44-page ruling.

As usual, the Panda's Thumb has a solid post that breaks down the decision, written by Timothy Sandefur, who actually wrote one of the amicus briefs submitted to the court for this trial. In addition, the decision itself is worth reading, as it lays out very clearly why the stickers had to be removed. The last section of the decision reads, in part:

In the instant case, it is undisputed that the Cobb County School Board used the money of taxpayers to produce and place the Sticker in dispute in certain of the Cobb County School District science books. This Sticker aids the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists. In light of the prior interpretation of the Georgia Constitution provision challenged by the Plaintiffs and given the Court's conclusion above that the Sticker violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Court likewise concludes that the Sticker runs afoul of the Georgia Constitution.


For the above-stated reasons, the Court hereby FINDS and CONCLUDES that the Sticker adopted by the Cobb County Board of Education violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Article I, Section II, Paragraph VII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia. In light of this conclusion, the Court hereby ORDERS as follows

1. Defendants shall immediately remove the Sticker from all science
textbooks into which the Sticker has been placed
2. Defendants are permanently enjoined from disseminating the Sticker
in any form

It is always reassuring when the legal system rules in favor of civil liberties, science, and reason, and we look forward to the same kind of conclusion to the Dover dispute. We don't know if this will be the final word out of Cobb County, but for now, we'll raise a glass in celebration, and toast a wonderful, logical decision.

— • —

In case you missed them, read our other Rants on Dover.

— • —
[  Filed under: % Creationism  % Government & Politics  % Religion  ]


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