The New Antievolution Strategy: Just Make Bizarre Stuff Up

Pim van Meurs alerted me to another just plain false broadside from the Discovery Institute*. Joe Manzari (American Enterprise Institute) and Seth Cooper (formerly of the Discovery Institute) say that Brian Rehm, one of the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, had a “clear” conflict of interest in being part of the new school board that specifically turned down a proposal to rescind the “intelligent design” policy.

One might assume the new board’s first item of business would be to rescind the old board’s evolution policy. Not so. During their first meeting on December 5th, former Dover Board member David Napierski proposed a resolution to rescind the old board’s evolution policy (prior to any court ruling). Acting as a private citizen, Napierski procured the opinion of an attorney, who said that a vote to rescind the evolution policy could stave off a courtroom defeat and significantly reduce or eliminate legal costs and fees. Yet the new board rejected Napierski’s proposal to rescind the old policy.

What’s more, one of the new board members who rejected any attempt to rescind the old evolution policy was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit whose outcome was pending. Dover C.A.R.E.S candidate turned new Dover Board member Bryan Rehm was represented by the ACLU and AUSCS. Yet, in a clear conflict of interest, he participated in the new Dover Board’s consideration of the resolution to rescind the evolution policy.

Wow. That’s pretty bad, isn’t it? So what’s the evidence that bears upon this serious allegation of misconduct on the part of an elected government official? It turns out that the major claim is contradicted by information easily obtained online. I guess easily for people other than AEI “research assistants” and former DI “policy analysts”.

(* Correction added: Cooper is noted at the bottom of the article as a former policy analyst for the DI. We had to wait a few hours for the Discovery Institute’s official false broadside to appear. Now Ed Brayton has a great takedown of the official DI post.)

Well, first, it should be noted that Manzari and Cooper are right that Mr. David Napierskie did encourage the new Dover school board to immediately rescind the policy. We can tell this because the Dover school board puts minutes for meetings online. The meeting in question was held on December 5th, 2005.

Here’s the notation for the interaction with Mr. Napierskie:

  1. David Napierskie. 6495 Cabot Road. Dover voiced his concerns of the legal ramifications of the Intelligent Design case and the dropping of the case now. Mr. Napierskie also presented legal briefs to the school board for their review.

  2. Board president Reinking noted that legal counsel advised the board that the trial is over and can not change the outcome of any vote. Mrs. Reinking promised to include the community and staff in any decisions made on Intelligent design. Intelligent design will be on the agenda for the January 3rd of meeting. There will be discussion at that time on the issue.

It is interesting that while Manzari and Cooper stress that Napierskie had consulted with an actual attorney, they fail to mention that the minutes immediately note that the new board also had its own legal advice on the issue, even if the minutes aren’t entirely coherent about what that legal advice actually was. The last time the board ignored their own counsel, they lost any coverage under insurance for the very case in question.

An interesting thing about minutes is that they document who participated in the proceedings. So, by Manzari and Cooper’s accusation, we should expect to see Brian Rehm’s name in the list of paneled board members. Here’s the list from the official minutes:

Roll Call

The Dover Area School Board met Monday, December 5, 2005, 7:01p.m. at the North Salem Elementary School. The Board Secretary opened the meeting with a pledge of allegiance the the flag and silent reflection. The following director was present: Mrs. Gessey. The following newly elected and certified board members were present: Mrs. Dapp, Mr. Emig, Mr. Gurreri, Mr. Herman, Mr. McIlvaine, Mrs. McIlvaine and Mrs. Reinking. Student representatives: Meghan Hilbert and Joshua Rowand.

Hmmm. Brian Rehm’s name doesn’t appear in the roll call for the board. In fact, his name doesn’t appear in the minutes for this meeting at all. The roll call goes to list 27 other names of people attending the meeting. But no Rehm. So we have a conundrum for Manzari and Cooper: how was Rehm “clearly” in conflict of interest at a meeting that there is no record that he even attended?

Here’s where it might have been a good thing for Manzari and Cooper to have done a little research. Note the “newly elected and certified board members” phrasing in the roll call. Rehm did not participate in the December 5th decision that would have been a “clear conflict of interest” because his election results were not yet certified. There was a problem with a voting machine that made the result ambiguous between the highest vote-getter of the old board, James Cashman, and the lowest vote-getter of the challengers, Brian Rehm. It would, in fact, require a runoff election between Rehm and Cashman to determine who the final board member would be. That runoff election took place January 3rd, 2006, and Brian Rehm only took his place on the board after his runoff election victory.

The revote was limited to about 800 voters who voted at the church on Nov. 8, when the voting machines registered 100 votes for Rehm and between 0 and 1 vote for Cashman.

A Court of Common Pleas judge ordered the revote between Rehm and Cashman – an incumbent who supported the intelligent design policy – because of a faulty voting machine at the church.

The machine didn’t properly count votes for Cashman, who has contended that he could have defeated Rehm, the winning four-year candidate with the fewest votes.

Yesterday, 621 people voted at the church and 32 sent in absentee ballots.

Joins CARES winners: Rehm will now join fellow Dover CARES (Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies) members elected to the school board on Nov. 8.

(Source: York Daily Record,, last accessed 2006/01/04. See also Penn Live; ACLU PA)


Various ID advocates obviously care nothing for whether their accusations of misconduct on the part of people opposing them have the slightest grounding in reality at all. The bizarre campaign of Forrest Mims to destroy the career of Eric Pianka over Mims’s inability to grasp the simplest concepts of ecology is followed only three days later by this completely fabricated slam on Brian Rehm. Whenever an ID advocate claims that they have any regard for facts, be sure to remind them of these two cases.

Are there any ID advocates out there with an ounce of moral fiber? We’ll be able to tell because they’ll be the ones who loudly and publicly register their disagreement with Mims, Manzari, and Cooper. I suspect the list will never grow so large as to require me to take off my shoes to count that high, though I’d be pleasantly surprised if I were proved wrong on that point.

Update: As another data point on the sloppy and careless way the Manzari and Cooper article is put together ([]Can you say, “reckless disregard”? Good.[/]), consider what blogger Ed Brayton pointed out to me in their article:

According to the ACLU’s Eric Rothschild, “We think it’s important that the public record will reflect how much it costs to stop an unconstitutional action.”

Eric Rothschild is not an ACLU employee. He is a partner in the Pepper Hamilton law firm.