Leiter on Albert Alschuler on Kitzmiller


University of Chicago Law Professor Albert Alschuler posted some comments on the Kitzmiller decision that are embarrassingly bad in many places. I can do no better than Brian Leiter in refuting them---his post deserves to be read in its entirety. But I do want to emphasize one point. Alschuler accuses Judge Jones of declaring that "[t]he first amendment makes intelligent design unmentionable in the classroom." As Leiter says, this is not even close to what Judge Jones said. Unfortunately, I expect this accusation to be repeated over and over again by those who profit greatly off of their image as a persecuted minority, hounded by evil atheist courts. All we can do is reiterate that it is not true.

The Court found that the government of Pennsylvania---acting through a local school board---has no authority to endorse a religious viewpoint by declaring that Intelligent Design is scientifically valid. But any individual in the Dover school district is free, today as always, to declare his personal belief in Intelligent Design, to tell other people about Intelligent Design, and to encourage people to read Of Pandas And People. What they are not free to do is to propagate ID on the government's dime and on the government's time. They are not free to spend taxpayer money on it, or put the government's seal of approval on it. But they are absolutely free to propagate it on their own time and in their own ways---indeed, it would be entirely illegal for the government to stop them from doing so.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how dangerous it is to confuse your right to do something with your power to do something with government money or with government authority. These two things are worlds apart. The Free Exercise Clause entirely protects the former. The Establishment Clause, however, severely restricts the latter---as it ought to.


In other words, it would be perfectly fine for a teacher to start up an extra-curricular IDEA club (or center - as Dembski prefers).

You as a citizen have the right to voice opinions and view points. We all agree on that issue without much controversy. But the enlisting of the government powers and resources to proselytize your opinions as the only truth is not necessarily appropriate or desirable. As Tim said “you have the right to do things”, but another matter entirely is to enlist the power and authority of the government to do those things. In this point Tim is completely correct.

Yet one more illustration of the seductively corrosive power of religious faith. Presumably Alschuler is a competent, intelligent, knowledgeable individual until his religious convictions are perceived as threatened. At which point his eyes glaze over, his mind engages the instinct engines, and he starts lying for Jesus without skipping a beat.

What’s impressive is that a legal expert, an acknowledged authority on what he’s lying about, with a sterling reputation to uphold, can and will discard every bit of this. Like watching a famous mathematician unable to do basic arithmetic if he suspects Jesus disapproves.

To be a little more precise, Jones’ decision only outlawed ID in a public school SCIENCE classroom. Presumably, it would be acceptable in another course.

So much for Phil Johnson’s early claim that having training in the law makes one better equipped to analyze scientific evidence.

You can’t evaluate what you don’t know.

Frankly, I am surprised that people are surprised at ID’ers misrepresenting what Judge Jones wrote and said. There is an entire FAQ about Quote Mining by creationists on the Talk.origins website. What makes people think or believe that ID proponents (read: creationists) would treat a legal document any different…?

But any individual in the Dover school district is free, today as always, to declare his personal belief in Intelligent Design

Correct, as far as it goes, but a big part of the decision is about the appearance of endorsement of religion. If a representative of the government - in a school, the teacher - endorses a specific religion then it gives the appearance that the government itself endorses the religion, by virtue of that persons role as a representative of the government. You can tell your students that you personally believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of creation (and what right-thinking person doesn’t), but you’d better not do it in the classroom or on school grounds, or even advertise your meeting in the classroom or on school grounds, and you’d probably better expressly tell them that this is your opinion which the school explicitly doesn’t support.

It sounds a little over-the-top, until you imagine how the Christian fundamentalists would react to a teacher who stood up in class and said “Its just my opinion, but I think same-sex marriages make much more sense than heterosexual ones…” And frankly, I’d be a little disturbed by that too, even though I have no problem with the actual opinion. By all means teach the kiddies critical thinking by examining the actual cases for and against evolution, but teachers expousing their personal opinions on religion, politics, or social mores is not really what schools are for.


Fyi, that thread is highly entertaining as such threads go.

And is that Creationist Timmy making an appearance at the end? With Mom and Dad, too?

Awwww, so cute!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on December 22, 2005 2:07 PM.

Prof. DeWolf’s Critique of Kitzmiller was the previous entry in this blog.

A possible link between reindeer, daylight deficiency, and artifact delivery is the next entry in this blog.

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