More Dover

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This just in:

DOVER, Pa. - A school board that is requiring students to learn about alternatives to the theory of evolution voted to retain legal counsel for its defense against a federal lawsuit filed by eight families who oppose a new “intelligent design” mandate.

Seven members of the Dover Area School District board voted unanimously to retain a nonprofit law center that describes itself as a defender of Christians’ religious beliefs, the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., despite the objections of most of the community members who spoke at the meeting. The board did not issue a comment on its decision. Martha Raffaele, Associated Press story

It looks like we’ll be hearing more from the Thomas More Law Center in the near future. Check out their website, If your British history is a bit rusty, see his Wikipedia page or this BBC History page on Sir Thomas More (1477 - 1535).

If you are wondering, 1535 is when King Henry VIII chopped Thomas More’s head off, because More refused to repudiate the Pope and join the Church of England, which Henry had established because the Pope wouldn’t let him divorce his wife. For this, More was canonized as a Catholic saint in 1935, but earlier in his career, Thomas More himself took “personal responsibility” for the “whipping and burning of English heretics.” (BBC) Henry’s decision, on the other hand, led to centuries of religious strife in England, continuing into modern times with the Catholic vs. protestant battles in Northern Ireland. Isn’t mixing Church and State fun?

4 TrackBacks

As reported from several sources, the Discovery Institute last week distanced itself from the Dover school board and their "intelligent design" curriculum. Per the Discovery Institute's press release on December 14: "While the Dover board is to be comm... Read More

The Panda's Thumb's Nick Matzke and Timothy Sandefur have covered a fracas brewing in Dover, Pennsylvania over the legality of teaching the theory of intelligent design in public school science classes. Although Darwin himself explicitly ruled out any ... Read More

The Panda's Thumb's Nick Matzke and Timothy Sandefur have covered a fracas brewing in Dover, Pennsylvania over the legality of teaching the theory of intelligent design in public school science classes. Although Darwin himself explicitly ruled out any ... Read More

The Panda's Thumb's Nick Matzke and Timothy Sandefur have covered a fracas brewing in Dover, Pennsylvania over the legality of teaching the theory of intelligent design in public school science classes. Although Darwin himself explicitly ruled out any ... Read More


First the Dover school board pushes this foolish issue to the point that they get sued. Then the Thomas More Center steps up for the quixotic defense.

If Dover loses, may I take this as evidence that there IS a God who cares about the truth?

Also from Wikipedia;

“Recently the high opinion of More in historical circles has been somewhat lowered. One of his recent biographers, Jasper Ridley, described More as “a particularly nasty sadomasochistic pervert” in his book The Statesman and the Fanatic. Joanna Denny in her biography of Anne Boleyn has been similarly critical, writing: -

“His zeal for public order verged on the fanatical. His early desire to become a priest exacerbated a repressed nature that led him secretly to wear a hair shirt and practise self-flagellation. He even imprisoned evangelicals in his own house at Chelsea and had them whipped on a tree in the garden.”

Historians have questioned Pope John Paul II’s declaration that More was a champion of “the individual’s freedom vis-a-vis political power.” Especially given the fact that it was More who introduced the harsh treason laws which were ironically used to destroy him years later. He was also involved in the murky death of a pro-Protestant merchant who was in Church custody in the 1510s. Nor is it true that he refused to acknowledge Anne Boleyn as queen, in 1533 he wrote a letter to Henry praising Anne’s character and praying that she would soon have a son.”

If Dover wins, anathema!!!!


Dover could not have played its hand better by showing that it is all about religion. No wonder the DI is worried. The playbook has been rewritten and all they can do is stand at the sidelines.

The Thomas More Law Center just put out a press release announcing their appointment to defend the D.A.S.B. U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (PA) is on the board of the TMLC, his comments on the issue are cited in the press release, and a week or two ago he made public statements supporting the DASB and ID:

Santorum gave a legislative update, and urged the group to keep an open mind about what he saw as a rising debate in schools over the teaching not just of evolution but also of alternatives, such as “intelligent design,” a theory holding that the complexity of the natural world offers overwhelming evidence of a supernatural force at work. Dover Area High School in York County recently became the first district in the country to offer the curriculum. Santorum said schools should teach about the controversy surrounding evolution.

“It is going to pit the forces of the popular media and university intelligentsia saying that we will be intolerant of any different points of view, any criticisms of evolution. We watched it in Kansas. We watched it in Ohio,” Santorum said in an interview after his speech, referring to other states that have had similar debates. “Now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn, and it is going to be bigger here.… What I was trying to inform my colleagues here was, don’t get trapped into thinking that they are trying to teach the Bible in the classroom. They are not.”

(Sen. Rick Santorum. Article: Political networking in a N.Y. weekend)

I assume that everyone here knows what the term “santorum” refers to. In any event, I do anxiously look forward to watching this guy descend in a glorious flyball which he certainly will do. We only have to wait patiently and keep the spotlights on him.

See the York Daily Record story “Dover board picks More legal team,” and the Dover Biology section in general, for more.

We need to celebrate the various milestones in the Dover case as they happen. And hopefully there will be several. The worst thing that could happen for ID and the DI is that Dover sets the precedent.

If you’re in the Raleigh area and want to use this as an excuse to drink, and you aren’t a creationist, email me and we’ll have a Dover Retained Council party at Mitch’s.


Former school board member Jeff Brown asked how the district intends to argue that intelligent design isn’t about forcing religion into science class — as its critics assert — when it hires a law firm which “exists pretty much solely to promote Christian religion.

“Their stated purpose pretty much precludes us from winning this case,” Brown said.

Dover is going to provide us with a lot of happiness before it fades away in a few years.

from :

But supporters of intelligent design say that Darwin’s theory of natural selection cannot account for the complexity of life-forms on Earth and that nature shows tangible signs of design by a preexisting intelligence. Unstated is the nature of that intelligence.

“That could be Mother Earth, Buddha, or whoever the Muslims believe in,” said Buckingham, who belongs to a fundamentalist Christian church.


from the ACLU:

At that meeting Mr.. Buckingham said that as part of the search for a new biology book, he and others were looking for one that offers balance between the biblical view of creation and Darwin’s theory of evolution. He also said there need not be any consideration for the beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or other competing faiths and views. “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution,” he said. “This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such.”

At a public meeting of the Dover School Board on June 14, 2004, in further discussion of the new biology book, Mr. Buckingham stated, “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?” He also stated that “[n]owhere in the Constitution does it call for a separation of church and state.”


Ah, could you ask for a better court case than this one? You can bet the DI is calling them every day, begging them to drop this one.


Unstated is the nature of that intelligence.

“That could be Mother Earth, Buddha, or whoever the Muslims believe in,” said Buckingham, who belongs to a fundamentalist Christian church.

Then the earth is quite young indeed because Buddha was born about 2500 years ago. If Buddha created all the living life forms on earth, then maybe he also wrote Buckingham’s holy book, which descibes mythological organisms with names like Moses who allegedly walked on terra firma 1000 years before Buddha.

Mr. Buckingham is the real deal: an unapologetically ignorant and more-or-less sincere fundie. A more appropriate or honest public face for “ID theory” probably does not exist. Let’s just hope that these streaks of candor aren’t merely the temporary side effects of Oxycontin withdrawal.

Thomas More Ctr. agreed to take the case without charge. As Al McGuire said when a restaurant busboy dropped a load of dishes:

The most expensive thing in the world is cheap help.

An interesting development. It looks like the plaintiffs want to get the public to get a good long whiff of the stench emanating from the mouths of ID apologists.

Note the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.[…]10573245.htm

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Eight families who sued a school district over the presence of “intelligent design” in its curriculum will not ask a federal judge to block the lessons that are expected to start next week, an attorney said Wednesday.

Witold Walczak, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said that during depositions this week, Dover Area School District officials “either denied or could not remember making statements at public school board meetings … about a desire to find biology textbooks that discuss creationism,” even though local newspapers reported their comments last summer.

Because the witnesses’ statements raised questions about their credibility and because the case is so complex, the plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to schedule a trial in the spring instead of seeking an immediate court order that would prevent the lessons, Walczak said.

“While we believe the introduction of intelligent design next week is unconstitutional, we did not want to ask the court to decide the matter without a hearing,” Walczak said.

Ronald A. Turo, a Carlisle lawyer representing the district, referred questions about the depositions to the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which the school board has retained to defend the district. Thomas More officials did not immediately return a telephone call Wednesday.

In a court filing Wednesday, attorneys for the district sought a dismissal of the lawsuit. They argued that the curriculum “does not advance religion, but merely provides the students of Dover High School with an honest science education … by informing students about the existing scientific controversy surrounding Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.”

The curriculum language originally approved by the school board said students must be “made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and other theories of evolution, including but not limited to intelligent design.”

In November, the board sought to clarify the rule by saying that teachers would read a statement advising students that Darwin’s theory “is not a fact” and that intelligent design “is an explanation of life that differs from Darwin’s view.”

In December, attorneys for the district argued that the court order the plaintiffs were considering was unnecessary because reading the statement to students does not constitute teaching the concept.

“What is going on is a one-minute statement that’s being made in a 90-minute section in a multiple-month subject,” Turo said.

Walczak disagreed.

“The parallel I would draw would be, if a social-studies teacher teaching World War II would talk about the Holocaust and make a statement - just a couple paragraphs - that there are gaps in the historical records of the Holocaust, and you should know an alternative theory that the Holocaust never happened,” he said.

The fight over intelligent design - a concept that holds that the universe is so complex it had to be created by a higher power - is the latest skirmish in nearly eight decades of litigation over evolution.

Since the board voted Oct. 18 to require that intelligent design be taught in ninth-grade biology classes at Dover High School - believed to be the first such requirement in the nation - the case quickly evolved from a local dispute into a nationally watched showdown between civil libertarians and religious activists.

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued in December on behalf of parents who objected to the requirement. To defend itself, the school board hired the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit group that bills itself as a champion of Christian freedoms.

The plaintiffs argue that intelligent design is merely a secular variation of creationism, the biblical-based view that regard God as the creator of life, and maintain that the Dover district’s curriculum mandate may violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

From CNN[…]t/index.html

District defends evolution teaching plan

Thursday, January 6, 2005 Posted: 9:05 AM EST (1405 GMT) PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania school district Wednesday rejected charges that plans to include references to an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution in high school biology classes would be illegal.

The Dover Area School District near Harrisburg is the first in the United States to introduce “Intelligent Design,” a theory that the natural world is so complex it must have been made by an intelligent being, rather than occurring by chance, as held by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The district was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State on December 14 over plans to teach the theory starting next week. The lawsuit is the first to challenge the teaching of Intelligent Design, which the groups say violates the Constitutional separation of church and state.

The civil rights groups argued that “Intelligent Design” is a thinly veiled version of creationism – the belief that the earth was made by God. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1980s that teaching creationism in public schools would violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

The school district said in Wednesday’s court filing that its “biology curriculum policy does not advance religion.”

Instead, it informs “students about the existing scientific controversy surrounding Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.”

Christian conservatives, who played an important role in the re-election of President Bush, have been pressing for decades for creationism to be taught in schools.

Lawyers for the school board said that neither creationism nor “Intelligent Design” will be taught to students, and that no religious beliefs will be taught.

Intelligent Design does not presuppose any supernatural being, and is not creationism, the school district said in its response, saying the school district will also continue to teach evolution.

On January 13, teachers will be required to read a statement saying that Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view, and that if students want to read more about it, they can read a book called “Of Pandas and People” which they can find in the school library.

Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU in Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs will not seek an order to stop the policy being implemented next week and hope the case will go to trial in the coming months.

“This is the first legal challenge to Intelligent Design, and that alone makes it important,” Walczak said. “If we lose, we really fear that you will see school districts all across the country teaching Intelligent Design.”

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on December 21, 2004 1:48 AM.

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