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« Armstrong Williams and the Media Whores The RantsThoughts on Newdow - Why the Little Things Matter »

Dover Watch - Memory Loss and Kudos to Teachers
2005.01.08 (Sat) 21:22

As we stated in an update to our last Dover Rant, all but one of the science teachers in the Dover school district signed a letter to the superintendant refusing to read the Intelligent Design disclaimer. The teachers were successful, and the administration will now be reading the propaganda statement. The text of the letter can be found in full on the NCSE site in an article by Nick Matzke, and also on The Panda's Thumb, where Nick wrote a post about the letter. The part we liked best was the following (caps are from the original letter):


Accordingly, the teachers refused to read the statement, not because it was religion or because it violated the constitution, but because it would violate their professional standards as well as Pennsylvania's Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators. Way to go, Dover teachers! If the students are going to be subjected to this bullshit, at least it won't be from their teachers.

In other news, as more details of the reasoning behind the dropped bid for an injunction on the statement have come to light, it is increasingly obvious that the Dover board's case is built on a series of questionable statements that may lead their members to incur perjury charges if they stick to their stories once the trial begins. As reported by the York Daily Record on January 7:

The plaintiffs’ lawyers did not ask a federal judge to block the implementation of the policy because school board members Alan Bonsell, Bill Buckingham and Sheila Harkins and district Supt. Richard Nilsen denied or didn’t recall earlier statements about why the board wanted to include intelligent design, Rothschild said.

Lawyers interviewed the four this week, saying they wanted to find out what led to the policy in order to determine if they had enough evidence to ask for an injunction.

The statements now in dispute included one by board member Bill Buckingham that this country was founded on Christianity and that students should be taught as such.

The plaintiffs had planned to present those statements to a judge as their argument to stop the policy, Rothschild said. While they believe they have the evidence to convince a judge of their position, Rothschild said, it is in dispute, and it wasn’t possible to present a whole record in time to request an injunction.

So they will work on finding witnesses, taking more depositions and calling experts in preparation for a spring hearing. Rothschild said he believes they will find that the statements, reported in two separate newspapers, were accurate.


School board member Bill Buckingham was shown a page from the Thomas More Law Center Web site, which describes its purpose to be the sword and shield for people of faith providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square.

Buckingham said he didn’t know that was the purpose of the law center when he first contacted it.

The attorney asked what he thought it was.

"I thought it was a group of attorneys that I could get some legal advice from," he said.

Buckingham said he didn’t know where he got the name of the center from.

We're willing to bet that the statements made by the board members during their June meeting are pretty well remembered by quite a few people, not to mention the two newspapers that both reported on those meetings. Also, Buckingham's denial that he knew anything about the Thomas More Law Center when he decided to contact them for assistance is about as unbelievable a tale as a person could tell. Check out the law center's home page and judge for yourself. Does the part that says that their mission is "Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians" tip their hand at all?

The York Dispatch, the other paper that is indirectly being accused of faulty reporting by the fundy contingent within the Dover board, had this to say about the selective memory loss issue:

Attorney Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton said the decision not to seek the restraining order came because of what was said in depositions this week by school officials, who were questioned about the origin of the curriculum change and statements by board members that were religious in nature.

Rothschild said that during those depositions Monday, district officials said they either had no memory of statements that were reported in The York Dispatch and York Daily Record during June 2004, or flatly denied that they were made.

Those who disputed the statements were: board president Sheila Harkins, former board president Alan Bonsell, former curriculum committee chair William Buckingham and superintendent Richard Nilsen.

More research: Rothschild said that because the evidence is in dispute, the attorneys will have to conduct more research to confirm the reports, which could not be done before the new curriculum starts Monday in Dover biology classes.

"These reports are not the substance of our case, but they did go toward the school board's motive in changing the curriculum," Rothschild said.


For example, as reported on June 15, 2004, by The York Dispatch and by the York Daily Record, Buckingham said "Nearly 2,000 years ago someone died on a cross for us; shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?" at a June 14 school board meeting.

Buckingham's denial: Buckingham said he never made that statement in reference to the evolution debate, but in reference to a resolution the board passed to support the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance in November 2003. His testimony was supported by that of Sheila Harkins.

However, the school officials also said that they had never asked the local papers to retract or correct any reports made.

It is becoming increasingly obvious why the Discovery Institute is distancing itself from Dover — not only do they have a weak case, they appear to be assholes whose cover stories are about as well-formed as those of a three year old caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Let's look at the York Dispatch story from June 15, 2004 that originally reported some of the quotes in question. That article is available for a fee, as is the York Daily Record article also in question. A brief quote from the York Dispatch is included below:

Opponents' position: William Buckingham, a board member and head of the curriculum committee, who brought up the issue last week, stood by his opposition to the [teachers' recommended biology] book and the separation of church and state.

"Nearly 2,000 years ago someone died on a cross for us; shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?" he asked.

Board members Alan Bonsell and Noel Wenrich agreed with Buckingham, saying creationism should be taught to balance evolution.

Buckingham apologized for offending any teachers or residents of the community with his remarks but was unapologetic about his belief that the country was founded on Christianity and not other religions and that a "liberal agenda was chipping away at the rights of Christians in this country."

His remarks were echoed by his wife, Charlotte Buckingham, who said that teaching evolution was in direct opposition to God's teachings and that the people of Dover could not in good conscience allow the district to teach anything but creationism.

For a moment, let's suspend disbelief and assume that Buckingham's statement about someone dying on a cross 2,000 years ago was made in response to the issue of mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegience. Setting aside logic, that still makes Buckingham's motives seem awfully religious. However, the next recorded positions are those of Alan Bonsell and Noel Wenrich, who apparently believe that "creationism should be taught to balance evolution." What's the cover story for this statement? Were they talking about the development of cookies in a home economics course, and arguing that the cookies may well have been created rather than evolving from dough? And how about Mrs. Buckingham's comments which supposedly echoed her husband's remarks by stating that "teaching evolution was in direct opposition to God's teachings and that the people of Dover could not in good conscience allow the district to teach anything but creationism." So, how did she echo her husband's remarks about the Pledge of Allegience with a remark about creationism? Odd, that. We're sure the Dover board members have some crackpot Abbott-and-Costello-esque stories to explain away these comments as well, and we're sure we'll hear those stories in good time.

We noticed a long list of blogs and editorials around the internet that latched onto this story as a victory for creationism and a major setback for the ACLU, the AU, and the parents who filed the lawsuit. We also noticed that most of the sources reporting as such appear to rely on such sites as WorldNetDaily as their sole source of news. By having their news spoon-fed to them by people who indulge in the exact same narrow-minded fantasies that they themselves believe in without doing even some cursory research on their own, such people only serve to delude themselves even further. Then again, if these people already believe that the earth was created a few thousand years ago, they are likely already beyond hope of ever returning to the real world.

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

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


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