Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Federal Judge Denies Pennsylvania School Board's Move to Stop Trial in "Intelligent Design" Challenge

A federal judge denied an attempt by the Dover Area School Board to prevent a lawsuit challenging the presentation of "intelligent design" in public science classrooms from going forward on Tuesday. The trial will begin as scheduled on September 26, and the legal team representing the 11 parents who filed the lawsuit will host a pretrial media teleconference on Friday, September 16 at noon, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The legal team, which consists of attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP, welcomed today's decision.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III denied the school board's petition for summary judgment noting that genuine issues exist as to "whether the challenged Policy has a secular purpose and whether the Policy's principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion despite Defendants' arguments to the contrary."

The lawsuit challenges a controversial decision made in October by the Dover Area School Board to require biology teachers to present "intelligent design" as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution. "Intelligent design" is an assertion that a supernatural entity is responsible for the creation of life. The lawsuit argues that such an assertion is a controversial religious theory that falls completely outside of mainstream science.

Critics have called "intelligent design" a pseudo-religion that does not come from theological seminaries or science laboratories but from political think tanks and lobbyists. At the time of the October vote, district science teachers opposed the policy and three school board members have since quit in protest of the decision.

The trial will take place in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Participating in Friday's pretrial teleconference will be Eric Rothschild and Stephen G. Harvey of Pepper Hamilton; Witold J. Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dr. Jeremy Gunn of the national ACLU; Richard Katskee of Americans United; and Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education.

You can read the decision here.


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