- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A federal judge ruled yesterday that a Pennsylvania public school district violated the Constitution when it required that its biology curriculum include “intelligent design,” an alternative to evolution that critics say amounts to repackaged creationism.

U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III decided that intelligent design — the notion that life was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause — cannot be addressed in biology classes in the Dover Area High School in York County.

“Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID (intelligent design) as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom,” Judge Jones, appointed in 2002 by President Bush, wrote in his 139-page opinion.

He agreed with 11 plaintiffs in the case, who said the Dover school board’s policy is “unconstitutional pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” under separation of church and state, “and of provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

Judge Jones further held that several religious members of the Dover Area School Board lied when they claimed they sought to improve science education by exposing students to intelligent design.

“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 purpose behind the ID policy,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

At issue was a resolution the Dover school board adopted by a 6-3 vote on Oct. 18, 2004. The resolution said: “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.”

A month later, the school district announced that starting in January of this year, teachers had to read a statement to ninth-grade biology students at Dover Area High School that Darwin’s theory of evolution is “not a fact.”

Many conservative Christians support the teaching of intelligent design, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has said creationism cannot be taught in public schools. The Dover Area School District was the first in the country to require that students be told about intelligent design. Proponents of the theory argue that some aspects of nature are too complex to be explained by random natural selection, as Charles Darwin maintained.

Judge Jones concluded that Dover’s school board violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by taking actions that “show religious favoritism or sponsorship.” As evidence, he pointed out that the board sent out newsletters “explaining the ID policy in detail” to every household in the school district.

Attempts to get a reaction from the Dover Area School District yesterday were unsuccessful.

But Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a research group that supports intelligent design, said intelligent design is “not a supernatural explanation.” By prohibiting further mention of ID in Dover classes, he said the judge “issued a judicial gag order on a scientific theory.”

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