December 20, 2005 (a Tuesday)

Church/State sign.

On this date, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Districtwas decided.

First, some background information. In October 2004, the Dover [PA] Area School District Board of Directors had decided that “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.” In November 2004, they had announced that Dover High School’s ninth-grade biology teachers would read a statement informing students that “Darwin’s Theory . . . is not a fact” and that “intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.” The statement referred students to the creationist textbook Of Pandas and People to learn “what intelligent design actually involves.” On December 14, 2004, eleven parents had filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania against the District’s Board of Directors. [Interestingly, in January 2005, science teachers refused to read the ID statement; administrators read it themselves.] The trial had begun on September 26, 2005.

Judge John Jones

The presiding judge, John E. Jones III, was not fooled by the defendants’ denials that they are creationists: “[Intelligent Design] cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” He was especially displeased that board members Buckingham and Bonsell had lied under oath during their depositions:

[T]he inescapable truth is that both Bonsell and Buckingham lied at their January 3, 2005 depositions about their knowledge of the source of the donation for Pandas. . . . This mendacity was a clear and deliberate attempt to hide the source of the donations . . . to further ensure that Dover students received a creationist alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution [emphasis added].

Presented with the truth about the board’s policy and the ID creationism it promoted, Jones ruled accordingly:

A declaratory judgment is hereby issued in favor of Plaintiffs . . . such that Defendants’ ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and . . . the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The victory was not just legal; the pro-ID school board was replaced by the voters on November 8, 2005.

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