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A Short Legal History
By Lenny Flank
Posted April 24, 2006
The term "scientific creationism" (and its new incarnation as "intelligent design theory") is a fairly recent label for an old ideology. Almost as soon as Darwin's Origin of Species was published, it became the focus of attack by religious fundamentalists who asserted that the Bible was the literal, revealed word of God, and was true and correct in all its proclamations. The Biblical story of Genesis, according to the fundamentalists' literal interpretation,
states that the universe was created by God less than 10,000 years ago, in six 24-hour days, and that all life was created, in its present form, during a two-day period of time. Further, at some point in the recent past there occurred a world-wide flood, which killed all life on earth except for those organisms that were saved on Noah's Ark. All living organisms, the creationists assert, are direct descendants of the organisms which Noah had with him on the ark, and all human beings are direct descendants of Noah and the seven relatives he had with him on the ark. In its original form, creationism was an openly religious viewpoint, which advocated the Biblical creation story instead of the "godless atheistic" Darwinian viewpoint. The original creationists flatly asserted that there have been no new species since the day of creation and no species have been lost (except for those that drowned in the Flood).
The high point of the creationist movement came in the early decades of the 20th century, when several states (mostly in the southern "Bible Belt") passed laws making it illegal to teach evolution. In 1928, for instance, the state of Arkansas passed a law (by referendum) making it illegal to teach "the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals." (Arkansas Initiated Act 1, 1928, cited in Eldredge 1982, p. 15 and LaFollette, 1983, p. 5) The Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 resulted when the ACLU deliberately violated such a "monkey law" (the Butler Act, which made it against the law to "teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals" (Tennessee Legislature Act , 1925, cited in Eldredge 1982, p. 14) ) in order to test its constitutionality. Scopes was convicted of violating the state's anti-evolution law, but the conviction was overturned on a technicality. After the trial, several states, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, kept their monkey laws on the books, but made little effort to enforce them.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite, shocking the United States out of its intellectual complacency and dramatically illustrating the inadequacy of science education in the US. In response to the new "space race", Congress passed a number of laws like the National Defense Foreign Languages Act and the National Defense Education Act, instituting a crash program to bring American science education up to par. One of these new programs was the
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, begun in 1959, to produce new up-to-date biology textbooks. Written by professional scientists in their fields, the BSCS texts prominently featured evolutionary theory as the foundation of all the biological sciences. Within a few years, nearly half the high schools in the country were using BSCS biology textbooks, despite the fact that anti-evolution laws were still on the books in a number of states.
In 1961, the Tennessee state legislature attempted to repeal the Butler Act, but failed after an acrimonious debate, during which one legislator equated evolutionists with communists: "Any persons or any groups who assist in any way to undermine faith in the teachings of the Bible are working in harmony with communism." (W. Dykeman and J. Stokely, "Scopes and Evolution -- The Jury is Still Out", New York Times Magazine, March 12, 1971, p. 72) In 1967, teacher Gary Scott of Jacksboro, Tennessee was fired for violating the Butler Act. He fought his firing in court and won, and the Butler Act was finally ruled unconstitutional by the Federal courts.
Shortly afterwards, Arkansas biology teacher Susanne Epperson filed a court challenge to the Arkansas monkey law. When the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the law, Epperson appealed to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1968 that all state monkey laws were unconstitutional, on the grounds that they served to establish a state-supported religion and eroded the separation of church and state. The anti-evolution laws, the Court decided, were nothing more than "an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, taken literally." (US Supreme Court, Epperson v Arkansas, 1968)
In 1973, just six years after repealing the Scopes anti-evolution law, the Tennessee State Legislature passed a replacement for the Butler Act. The new law stated, "Any biology textbook used for teaching in the public schools, which expresses an opinion of, or relates a theory about origins or creation of man and his world shall [give] . . . an equal amount of emphasis on . . . the Genesis account in the Bible." (Public Acts of Tennessee, 1973, Chapter 377, cited in LaFollette, 1983, p. 80) Within two years, this law had also been struck down by the Federal Courts, which ruled that the Tennessee law was "a clearly defined preferential position for the Biblical version of creation as opposed to any account of the development of man based on scientific research and reasoning. For a state to seek to enforce such preference by law is to seek to accomplish the very establishment of religion which the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States squarely forbids." (US District Court, Daniel v Waters, 1975)
In response to this ruling and the earlier Epperson Supreme Court decision, the creationist movement made the tactical decision to downplay the religious aspects of creationism, and began to argue that creationism could be supported solely through scientific evidence, without any reference to God or the Bible. Thus was born "creation science" -- it is nothing more than an attempt by the fundamentalists to sneak their religious views into the classroom by
pretending that they are really a "science".
In 1981, the state of Arkansas passed a law, Act 590, mandating that "creation science" be given equal time in public schools with evolution. A dozen or so clergymen of differing denominations, supported by legal help from the ACLU, sued and argued that creation "science" was nothing more than fundamentalist Biblical literalism pretending to be science. Creationists from the Creation Research Society argued to the court that their viewpoint was a scientific
model and not based at all on religion. Judge William Overton, after listening to both sides, was unconvinced by the creationists' arguments, and ruled that creation "science" was not a science, but was merely an attempt to introduce religious beliefs into the public school system, and was therefore unconstitutional.
Under the US Constitution, it is illegal for the Federal Government or for any state to pass a law which establishes government support for any religious view, or which serves to advance any particular religious view. The "Balanced Treatment Law", Judge Overton concluded, violated this "Establishment Clause". "The evidence is overwhelming," Overton wrote, "that both the purpose and the effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion in the public schools."
(Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981) Citing a number of letters and statements made by the creationists themselves, the judge concluded that "Act 590 is a religious crusade, coupled with a desire to conceal this fact". (Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)
"The proof in support of creation science consisted almost entirely of efforts to discredit the theory of evolution through a rehash of data and theories which have been before the scientific community for decades. The arguments asserted by creationists are not based upon new scientific evidence or laboratory data which has been ignored by the scientific community." (Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)
"The creationists' methods do not take data, weigh it against the opposing scientific data, and thereafter reach the conclusions stated in Section 4(a). Instead, they take the literal wording of the Book of Genesis and attempt to find scientific support for it." (Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)
"Creation science," Overton concluded, "has no scientific merit or educational value as science . . . Since creation science is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion." (Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981) The Arkansas monkey law was ruled unconstitutional and was thrown out.
The creationists, however, were unbowed. As the state representative who sponsored Act 590 told the newspapers, "If we lose, it won't matter that much. If the law is unconstitutional, it'll be because of something in the language that's wrong . . . . So we'll just change the wording and try again with another bill . . . We got a lot of time. Eventually we'll get one that is constitutional." (Washington Post, December 7, 1981) On the very day that Judge Overton ruled the Arkansas law unconstitutional, the Mississippi State Legislature passed a similar "Balanced Treatment" bill by a vote of 48-4.
Creationists tended to view the Arkansas ruling as a fluke, pointing out that the state Attorney General had refused to allow prominent creationist lawyers to assist in the case (prompting charges from fundamentalists that he "hadn't really been trying" to win the case). In Louisiana, where the State Legislature had passed a "Balanced Treatment" bill mandating equal classroom time for "creation science" and "evolution science", the creationists finally got their chance for an all-out attack, led by Wendell Bird, the creationist lawyer who had drafted many of the model "balanced treatment" bills. Despite
their efforts, the bill was struck down in January 1985 by a Federal judge, who concluded that the law was unconstitutional "because it promotes the beliefs of some theistic sects to the detriment of others." (US District Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1985, cited in Berra, 1990, p. 137) This ruling was upheld by a Federal Court of Appeals six months later, and the creationists appealed to the US Supreme Court.
In June 1987, the Supreme Court ruled against the creationists, concluding by a vote of 7-2 that the purpose of creation "science" was "to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint." (US Supreme Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1987) "The pre-eminent purpose of the Lousisiana
Legislature," the Court decided, "was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind." (US Supreme Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1987)
"Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious belief," the Court ruled, "the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. . . . The Act violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose." (US Supreme Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1987) As a result of this decision, all existing "Balanced Treatment" laws were thrown out.
Following this defeat, however, the creation scientists once again changed their tactics. First, they moved their focus from attempting to pass state laws mandating the teaching of creation "science" to attempting to pressure textbook committees and local school boards (where their highly organized and well-financed political machines can exert tremendous influence) into voluntarily granting equal time for "creation science. Secondly, they have changed their arguments -- now, instead of arguing that creationism is a science and should therefore be taught in public schools, they have argued that
creationism really is religion, but so is evolution -- evolution is, they now said, really nothing more than the "religion" of "secular humanism", and therefore evolution should not be taught in public schools either. This argument has already failed in a number of Federal courts.
In 1981, a prominent creationist in California sued to have the teaching of evolution removed from the classroom on the grounds that it violated his and his children's Constituional right to free exercise of their religion. In response, the California Superior Court ruled that teaching evolution in science class does not establish a religion or interfere with the religious rights of any citizens (Sacramento Superior Court,Segraves v California, 1981).
The issue came up again in 1994, when a California biology teacher sued the state and the local school district, claiming that teaching evolution illegally established the "religion of secular humanism". The teacher also claimed that the state and school district were conspiring against him as a result of their "group animus towards practicing Christians" (US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994).
The Court ruled, "Adding 'ism' does not change the meaning nor magically metamorphose 'evolution' into a religion. 'Evolution' and 'evolutionism' define a biological concept: higher life forms evolve from lower ones. The concept has nothing to do with how the universe was created; it has nothing to do with whether or not there is a divine Creator (who did or did not create the universe or did or did not plan evolution as part of a divine scheme). " (US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994)
The court rather sardonically notes that, "On a motion to dismiss we are required to read the complaint charitably, to take all well-pleaded facts as true, and to assume that all general allegations embrace whatever specific facts might be necessary to support them. Charitably read, Peloza's complaint at most makes this claim: the school district's actions establish a state-supported religion of evolutionism, or more generally of 'secular humanism.' According to Peloza's complaint, all persons must adhere to one of two religious belief systems concerning 'the origins of life and of the universe:' evolutionism, or creationism. Thus, the school district, in teaching evolutionism, is establishing a state-supported 'religion.' We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or secular humanism are 'religions' for Establishment Clause purposes. Indeed, both the dictionary definition of religion and the clear weight of the caselaw are to the contrary." (US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994)
"Evolutionist theory is not a religion," the Court ruled. "Plaintiff's assertions that the teaching of evolution would be a violation of the Establishment Clause is unfounded." (US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994) The court concluded that Peloza's case was "frivolous" and ordered him to compensate the state and school board for costs and attorney fees.
One of the newest creationist tactics has been to lobby state texbook committees to either drop mention of evolutionary biology altogether, or to add a "disclaimer" to their texts opining that evolution is "just a theory". On January 16, 1998, for instance, the Washington State Senate introduced a bill requiring that all science textbooks contain a printed disclaimer stating that evolution is only a "theory", and listing a series of inaccurate criticisms of evolution. The bill is a virtual word-for-word copy of an earlier proposal passed by the Alabama state Board of Education in November, 1995. The Washington bill reads:
"All science textbooks purchased with state moneys must have the following notice placed prominently in them.
A MESSAGE FROM THE WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE
This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants, animals, and humans.
No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact.
The word "evolution" may refer to many types of change. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species. (White moths, for example, may "evolve" into gray moths.) This process is microevolution, which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing to
another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macroevolution, has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.
"There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including:
- Why did the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record (known as the "Cambrian Explosion")?
- Why have no new major groups of living things appeared in the fossil record for a long time?
- Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record?
- How did you and all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of "Instructions" for building a living body?"
In April 1994, the Tangipahoa School Board, in Lousiana, passed a policy mandating that a disclaimer be presented before any discussion of evolutionary theory. The policy states:
"Whenever, in classes of elementary or high school, the scientific theory of evolution is to be presented, whether from textbook, workbook, pamphlet, other written material, or oral presentation, the following statement shall be quoted immediately before the unit of study begins as a disclaimer from endorsement of such theory.
"It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.
"It is further recognized by the Board of Education that it is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his/her own opinion and maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter of the origin of life and matter. Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion." (US Circuit Court, Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Ed, 1999)
A number of parents in the school district filed suit. In the Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Education case, the Federal District judge ruled that the disclaimer was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. This decision was upheld on appeal by the Federal Circuit Court. In its opinion upholding the appeal, the Circuit Court writes, "We conclude that the primary effect of the disclaimer is to protect and maintain a particular religious viewpoint, namely belief in the Biblical version of creation," and noted that the stated purpose of the disclaimer, to "exercise critical thinking", was "a sham" (US Circuit Court, Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Ed, 1999) .
"In reaching this conclusion, we rely on the interplay of three factors: (1) the juxtaposition of the disavowal of endorsement of evolution with an urging that students contemplate alternative theories of the origin of life; (2) the reminder that students have the right to maintain beliefs taught by their parents regarding the origin of life; and (3) the 'Biblical version of Creation' as the only alternative theory explicitly referenced in the disclaimer." (US
Circuit Court, Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Ed 1999) In June 2000, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Freiler case and let the Circuit Court's ruling stand.
In February 2000, the Attorney General of Oklahoma ruled that the State Education Board there had no legal authority to require biology textbooks to carry a disclaimer similar to the ones in Washington and Louisiana. He also concluded that the Board had violated state law by adopting the proposed disclaimer without previous public notice or discussion. Just a few weeks later, the Board voted to reject a total of five biology textbooks because they discussed evolution.
The Freiler ruling made it likely that all the remaining "disclaimers" would also be rejected by the Courts on Constitutional grounds. And indeed, the creationists lost yet another "disclaimer" case in January 2005, when a Federal judge in Georgia ruled that such disclaimers violated the separation of church and state. "Due to the manner in which the sticker refers to evolution as a theory, the sticker also has the effect of undermining evolution education to the benefit of those Cobb County citizens who would prefer that students maintain their religious beliefs regarding the origin of life," Judge Clarence Cooper wrote in his ruling. "The distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case," he ruled. "The school board has effectively improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position," Cooper concluded. "Therefore, the
sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed." (Selman v Cobb County School District, US District Court, January 2005)
Just as had creation "scientists" at the time of their loss in Arkansas, the IDers imemdiately began whining that they had only lost because the lawyer for the county had presented "an incompetent defense" of the law. ("Incompetent Defense by Cobb County Attorney May Have Caused School District Loss", Discovery Institute Website, January 13, 2005)
However, despite their steady string of losses regarding "disclaimer stickers", the creationist movement at the same time has been pursuing an alternative strategy.
In 2001, the Discovery Institute, which argues in favor of a new form of creationism known as "intelligent design theory", took the anti-evolution issue to the Federal level. "Intelligent design theory" is a watered-down version of creationism which attempted to avoid falling afoul of Constitutional conflicts by removing nearly all of the previously accepted tenets of creationism. Rather than a "creator", ID "theory" speaks of an un-named "intelligent designer",
which they make no effort to identify. In order to avoid identification with Genesis or other religious beliefs, "intelligent design theory" makes no statements about the age of the earth, or any of the particular actions which the "intelligent designer" may or may not have done. By limiting ID "theory" to vague assertions and inferences, advocates hope to avoid identifying their "scientific theory" with religion, and thus to avoid the Constitutional issues
that had doomed all of the previous anti-evolution efforts.
The "intelligent design" movement got its first legal test in June 2001, when the Senate was debating the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Authorization Bill (later renamed the "No Child Left Behind" Act). During the debate, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum introduced an amendment that had been partially written by Discovery Institute lawyer Phillip Johnson (and based on a law journal article written by Discovery Institute activist David DeWolf). The Santorum Amendment, introduced as a "sense of the Senate" resolution, read:
"It is the sense of the Senate that (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why the subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject."
Because the House version of the No Child Left Behind Act did not include any corresponding version of the Santorum Amendment, a House/Senate Conference Committee was required to reach agreement on a joint bill to be agreed upon by boht chambers of Congress. After a flood of letters and testimony from prominent science and education groups pointed out that the Santorum amendment was nothing but a thinly veiled excuse for teaching "intelligent design theory" in classrooms, the conference committee dropped the amendment, noting, in their Conference Report, "The conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society." When the final version of the No Child Left Behind bill was passed by both the House and the Senate, it did not contain any portion of the Santorum Amendment.
Creationists/IDers and their supporters have, however, attempted to claim that the No Child Left Behind bill not only permits but actually requires schools to teach "intelligent design theory". Santorum himself, for instance, wrote in March 2002, "At the beginning of the year, President Bush signed into law the "No Child Left Behind" bill. The new law includes a science education provision where Congress states that "where topics are taught that may generate
controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist. If the Education Board of Ohio does not include intelligent design in the new teaching standards, many students will be denied a first-rate science education." (Washington Times, March 14, 2002, cited in "ID-Activists-Guide", NCSE website). Two Ohio Congressmen also claimed, "The Santorum language is now part of the law".
(Washington Times, March 20, 2002, cited in "ID-Activists-Guide"). Neither of these claims, of course, are true -- the Santorum language was dropped from the bill in committee, and the only time it is mentioned is in the accompanying Conference Report, which is not a part of the bill and has no legal force or authority.
The topic of the Santorum Amendment was brought up in Ohio as the result of another legal effort by the Discovery Institute to force "intelligent design theory" into school classrooms. In early 2002, the state of Ohio was carrying out a review of its statewide science curriculum, when chemist Robert Lattimer objected to the prominence of evolution in the science standards, and lobbied for inclusion of "intelligent design theory" as a "scientific alternative" to
evolution. The effort attracted the attention of the Discovery Institute, which unleashed all its lobbying abilitites in an effort to push ID "theory" into the Ohio science standards. Friendly legislators introduced a bill into the state House of Representatives which would "require that whenever an explanation for the origins of life and its diversity is included in the instructional program of a school district or educational service center the instructional
program shall encourage the presentation of scientific evidence objectively and disclose the historical nature of origins of life science and any material assumptions on which the explanation is based."
The bill read:
"Sec. 3313.6013. It is the intent of the general assembly that to enhance the effectiveness of science education and to promote academic freedom and the neutrality of state government with respect to teachings that touch religious and nonreligious beliefs, it is necessary and desirable that "origins science," which seeks to explain the origins of life and its diversity, be conducted and taught objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or
philosophic bias or assumption. To further this intent, the instructional program provided by any school district or educational service center shall do all of the following:
(A) Encourage the presentation of scientific evidence regarding the origins of life and its diversity objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption;
(B) Require that whenever explanations regarding the origins of life are presented, appropriate explanation and disclosure shall be provided regarding the historical nature of origins science and the use of any material assumption which may have provided a basis for the explanation being presented;
(C) Encourage the development of curriculum that will help students think critically, understand the full range of scientific views that exist regarding the origins of life, and understand why origins science may generate controversy." (Ohio House Bill 481)
The Discovery Institute brought out all its big guns in Ohio, including such luminaries as Johnson and Dembski, but in the end, the legislative bills all failed. Not only did the Ohio board not include "intelligent design theory" in its standards, but it specifically excluded it by name. Although students under the new science standards should be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory",
the board noted, "The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design." (Ohio Board of Education, December 10, 2002)
"Intelligent design" advocates, however, seized on the words "critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory", and immediately re-introduced "intelligent design theory" through the back door, using a new strategy that has become known as "teach the controversy". Now, instead of attempting to push "intelligent design theory" into schools, the Discovery Institute and its supporters have been forced to retreat to the much weaker notion of teaching the
alleged "scientific problems" with evolution instead. The new strategy drops any mention of "intellgient design", and instead attempts to argue that somehow, somewhere, something must be wrong with evolution.
As part of the new strategy, members of the Ohio Board of Education proposed a "model lesson plan" that was largely written by Discovery Institute members and supporters, entitled "Critical Analysis of Evolution". The model lesson pointed out the same supposed "scientific problems with evolution" that the Discovery Institute had been preaching for years. Included in the model lesson plan were "goals" such as:
"Describe one piece of evidence used to challenge evolution and explain why it is important.
Compare and contrast the supporting and challenging information regarding the aspect of evolution you studied.
Evaluate the scientific data supporting and challenging areas of evolution in light of the scientific method. In other words, is the data that is used to support or challenge evolution consistent or inconsistent with the scientific method? Are there any limitations? (NOTE: steps of scientific method: Observation, hypothesis, test, retest and conclusion)"
The model lesson plan included links to several Internet websites from the Discovery Institute and other supporters of intelligent design "theory". These websites were later dropped after heavy criticism. Also dropped was a direct reference to the anti-evolution book "Icons of Evolution", written by Discovery Institute member Jonathan Wells.
In March 2003, the Ohio Board passed a modified version of the lesson plan which, while erasing all of the references to intelligent design "theory", nevertheless accepted most of the Discovery Institute's "teach the controversy" strategy and included many of the supposed "scientific criticisms of evolution" that have been trotted out for years by the Discovery Institute and other creationists.
In June 2004, the Dover School District, near York, Pennsylvania, was carrying out a routine review of the textbooks being used by the district's biology students. During the review, School Board Curriculum Committee member William Buckingham complained that the biology textbooks were "laced with darwinism" (York Daily Record, Dec 26, 2005). In a TV interview a week later, Buckingham declared, "My opinion, it's OK to teach Darwin, but you have to balance it with
something else such as creationism". (York Daily Record, Jan 16, 2005). A month later, in July 2004, an "anonymous donation" of 60 copies of the intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People, was made to the school district for use as a "supplemental text" in classrooms. In October 2004, the full School Board voted 6-3 to amend the district's curriculum to include intelligent design "theory". The amended curriculum guide read, "Students will be made aware of
gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, Intelligent Design. The Origin of Life is not taught." (York Daily Record, Dec 26, 2004) Several board members resigned in protest.
The Board, meanwhile, wrote up a brief "statement" to be announced in each biology class, which read:
"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." (York Daily Record, Jan 8, 2005)
In December, eleven parents contacted the ACLU in Pennsylvania, which filed a lawsuit on their behalf charging the district with violating church/state provisions by teaching the religious doctrine of intelligent design "theory". The ACLU was joined by Americans United for Separation of Church and State in the suit, and advice and assistance was also offered by the National Center for Science Education, a national nonprofit group that opposes efforts to weaken
science education with creationism or intelligent design. NCSE's legal advisory counsel, Eric Rothschild, offered to head up the plaintiff team. The Thomas Moore Law Center, in turn, immediately offered to defend the Board for free.
In December 2005, the judge ruled "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory":
"Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member who voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the
secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. Their asserted purposes are a sham."
"Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective."
"Defendants' previously referenced flagrant and insulting falsehoods to the Court provide sufficient and compelling evidence for us to deduce that any allegedly secular purposes that have been offered in support of the ID Policy are equally insincere. Accordingly, we find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the stablishment Clause." (Jones Opinion, 2005)
"The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case," the judge ruled, "makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause." (Jones Decision, 2005)
In the wake of the Dover decision, in early February 2006, Ohio Governor Bob Taft asked for a legal review of the state's "teach the controversy" curriculum standards. While declaring that he remained in favor of requirements to "critically examine evolution", Gov Taft nevertheless stated, "But if there is an issue here where they are actually teaching intelligent design, that's another matter, and that's what the court said as well." (Herald-Dispatch, Feb 3, 2006) Less than two weeks later, Ohio State Board of Education members voted 11-4 to drop all of the "teach the controversy" language from the state's science standards.
The legal history of creation "science", therefore, has been remarkably consistent -- the creation "scientists" have lost every single Federal court case they have ever been involved with. In every instance where creation "scientists" or intelligent design "theorists" have attempted to argue that their viewpoints are "science" and should be taught in schools, or that evolution is not science and should not be taught in schools, their claim has been
rejected by the courts -- soundly, starkly, and unequivocably.
Lenny Flank is the author of Creation "Science" Debunked and Lenny Flank's Herp Page.