Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District

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The text of the statement[1]

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments.

Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005), Case No. 04cv2688, was a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State against the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School District to censor any mention of intelligent design (ID) in public school science classrooms.

The court completely and permanently censored the reading of the proposed statement on Intelligent Design,[1] and approved an award of over $2 million in legal fees to the ACLU and other plaintiffs' attorneys.[2] The court also denied an attempt to intervene in the case by parents who wanted the ID statement,[3] and completely excluded ("stricken in its entirety") an amicus brief submitted by the Discovery Institute which included information from Drs. Stephen Meyer and William Dembski. The judge ruled that the amicus brief be struck since it would allow Dembski and Meyer, who had previously planned to testify but had decided to withdraw, to testify as expert witnesses without being subject to cross-examination by the plaintiffs. The amicus curiae of the scientists was allowed to remain on the court record.[4] The court's final order was based on a stipulation about attorneys' fees which also foreclosed any appeal of the ruling.[5] Taxpayers in the district paid $1,000,011 of the massive legal fee award to the ACLU and other plaintiffs' attorneys.[6]

The court's decision relied heavily on a district court decision from another jurisdiction, Selman v. Cobb County School District, quoting from it nearly a dozen times, but that decision was subsequently vacated on appeal (although the school board involved withdrew their policy and paid an out of court settlement to avoid a retrial.)[7] A final judgment and dismissal with prejudice was entered on December 19, 2006 in which the school board in question was prohibited from taking any action that would "prevent or hinder the teaching of evolution in the school district."[8]

Contents

Criticism

Immediately after the ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Jones, who had been recommended for the bench by liberal Republican Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge and appointed by Pres. George W. Bush, was criticized for judicial activism by the Discovery Institute.[9]

Judge Jones's Kitzmiller decision was based upon faulty reasoning, non-existent evidence, and a serious misrepresentation of the scientific theory of intelligent design. Despite Judge Jones's protestations to the contrary, his attempt to use the federal bench to declare evolution a sacred cow turns out to be a textbook case of good-old-American judicial activism. [3]

The Discovery Institute found that in his decision Jones has copied verbatim from the ACLU's proposed findings of fact. Casey Luskin, a scholar of intelligent design at the Discovery Institute, has shown that the decision amounts to judicial activism, although Judge Jones has denied this.[9]

Judge Jones gave many public statements and speeches after his ruling. In the conclusion of his ruling, he answered his expected critics by stating, "Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."[1][10]

Details of the case

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Plaintiffs

The plaintiffs were a group of eleven parents that brought the case on behalf of their children that attended the Dover Area School District. Dover resident Tammy Kitzmiller learned of the school board's revised policy during November 2004 and filed suit with the other parents on December 14, 2004. They were represented by American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Pepper Hamilton LLP. Pepper Hamilton LLP accepted the lead role of presenting the plaintiffs' case.[1][11]

Defendants

The defendants were the Dover Area School District and the Dover Area School District Board of Directors. The Board presided over schools in the Dover area that taught approximately 3700 students. About 1000 students attended Dover High School, the school where the ID policy was to be implemented (in fact, the teachers refused to read the statement to students,[12] and it was read by Superintendent Richard Nilsen and Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa)[13]. The Defendants retained the services of the Thomas More Law Center on a pro bono basis.[1][14]

Endorsement and Lemon Tests

Based on the "Consideration of the Applicability of the Endorsement and Lemon Tests to Assess the Constitutionality of the ID Policy", the court determined that both the "endorsement test and the Lemon Test should be employed in the case to analyze the constitutionality of the ID policy under the Establishment Clause." The court determined this course of action based on the opinions of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and previous court cases involving the establishment clause, the Lemon Test, and other cases involving the teaching of creationism and evolution in public schools. [1]

Verdict

On December 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones III rendered his verdict and ruled the Dover ID policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The court summarized in stating, "The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents." Judge Jones held that "the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere." The defendants were permanently enjoined from maintaining the ID policy in any school within the Dover Area School District. [1]


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Memorandum Opinion 20th December, 2005.
  2. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/530239/2006-02-22_stipulation
  3. http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/opinions/jones/04v2688.pdf
  4. http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/OrderstrikeDIamicusbriefs.pdf
  5. http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/all_legal/2006-02-24_Judgment.pdf
  6. Montana Law Review Editor's Notes
  7. Selman v. Cobb County Sch. Dist., 390 F. Supp. 2d 1286 at 1306 (N.D. Ga. 2005), vacated on appeal, 449 F.3d 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).
  8. http://www.cobbk12.org/news/2006/20061219_EvolutionCase.htm
  9. 9.0 9.1 Judge Jones Admits the Activist Nature of Kitzmiller Ruling on Lehrer Newshour (Discovery Institute).
  10. http://www.adl.org/Civil_Rights/speech_judge_jones.asp
  11. http://www.pepperlaw.com/pepper/pracarea/doverID/doverID.cfm
  12. Even though teachers agreed to include as a reference a book containing positive references to intelligent design, later they refused to read the statement due to their own disagreements with it. [1]
  13. Direct Examination of Assistant Superintendent Baksa by Patrick T. Gillen, Esq. 11/2/05 [2]
  14. http://yorkdispatch.inyork.com/searchresults/ci_3535139

See also

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