Has the Legislative Intent Behind Labor Law s. 240(1) Been Contravened by Recent Case Law?
People v. Goldstein, Part 1

Federal Judge Rules Pennsylvania School Cannot Mention "Intelligent Design" in Biology Class

Today, Judge John E. Jones, III, a judge for the United States District Court of Middle Pennsylvania, ruled that the Dover Area Public School District had violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution by requiring that teachers, prior to teaching evolution in biology class, read a letter disavowing the theory of evolution.  The judge accordingly issued an injunction that prohibited the school district from teaching the Intelligent Design to its students. 

It was reported that the school district was unlikely to appeal the order since the school board's membership was replaced by a slate of new members as a result of the November elections.

The decision can be found here.

The letter that the previous school board required teachers to read prior to teaching evolution can be found here.

Although this case is unlikely to be appealed, it's only a matter of time before this issue makes its way to the Supreme Court.  A federal appeals court in Georgia recently heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of evolution disclaimer stickers place on biology books, and in November, state education officials in Kansas adopted classroom science standards that call into question the theory of evolution.

I believe that the judge correctly applied the relevant Constitutional standards in this case.  It will be interesting to follow the various cases regarding this divisive issue as they work their way through the court system, and even more interesting to ultimately learn of the Supreme Court's position on this issue.

Comments

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wdegraw

Academically speaking, ID presents itself as a pretty interesting topic of discussion, but this discussion belongs nowhere near a science class. Or a public school.

The "gaps" in Darwinism will be closed by further scientific research, ie DNA, etc. not by the Second Coming of whomever.

I can't imagine any Judge opining otherwise, unless by default - ie since there are "gaps" in Darwinism, maybe ...

That being said, I printed this opinion out for bedtime reading with the kids (as soon as they finish another covertly religious tale - The Chronicles of Narnia).

slickdpdx

Absolutely good result. I.D. might be a theory but its not very scientific. Don't these family values types have any time to tell their kids whatever it is they want to tell them about their own views?

On the other hand I don't know that those stupid disclaimers really result in an establishment clause violation. I guess I should read the case...

Richard Ames

“I believe that the judge correctly applied the relevant Constitutional standards in this case.”

You must be saying this because you personally agree with the outcome. In terms of its amenability to confident legal analysis, this case is not good. Yes, I agree with judge’s decision too, but not because it’s grounded in any solid legal reasoning. I agree with it because of my own disposition about, and opinions concerning, intelligent design.

If you gave Judge Jones the academic assignment of drafting an Opinion against his own decision I suspect many wise and experienced lawyers, upon reading it, might say, “that the judge correctly applied the relevant Constitutional standards.” (And they would mean it, too!) Of course the lawyers who would say that would also happen to personally agree with the judge’s conclusion. And so it goes.

We need to start openly admitting that there are some issues that get into our courts for which the law can only fake an assured analysis. Abortion, for example, is like this. I find little defensible “legal analysis” in Roe, even though I am firmly pro-choice. I believe it is intellectually dishonest for supporters of abortion rights, just because they agree with its outcome, to maintain that Roe is some product of some anchored legal reasoning when in fact it’s pretty darned lame.

So I have no idea if the court in this case “correctly” applied the law (and neither does the court), but my proclivity is to agree with its decision. How’s that coming from an attorney?

Nicole Black

Richard-While I agree 100% with your take on the abortion cases, I'm not sure that I agree with you regarding this case.

I, too, am pro-choice and am of the opinion that the Supreme Court cases that created the "right" to abortion are on shaky legal ground. Upon reading Roe, one is left with the impression that the right to abortion was pulled out of thin air, or perhaps out of a "penumbra."

However, in regard to the mandate of the separation of church and state, I think that the Constitutional basis is quite clear, as is the Supreme Court precedent that interprets it.

If you have a specific issue with the basis for judge's decision in this case, please advise. I'd be more than happy to discuss it. I really enjoy this area of Constitutional law.

slickdpdxslickdpdx

I thought the judge's analysis of the evidence establishing that I.D. was merely a dressed up "Creationism" and that there was a strong association/content connection with Christianity made the establishment clause analysis pretty tight. In that respect, this was really a fact case, not a law case.

Richard Ames

Nicole- I’m a member of a school board in Pennsylvania (on the other side of the state from Dover) and so have been educating myself about the ID issue just in case it appears in our district. I am very suspicious of ID and its proponents have generally not done a very good job of alleviating those suspicions. The Dover school board was blatantly religious about the reasons for its introducing ID. Minimizing indoctrination in public schools is a worthy goal (I’m not naïve enough to think it can be eliminated).

Having said that, however, if you research the history of the "Big Bang" theory you'll find that the overwhelming majority of scientists at the time of its introduction thought the theory smacked of religion, that a Big Bang explanation was a something-for-nothing theory, was completely counter-scientific. Some went so far as saying it was religion couched in scientific jargon and they suspected that its proponent’s next step would be to announce that god was the Bang. Sound familiar? Einstein had these very misgivings about it and even introduced a constant into his expanding universe equation to stop it from expanding, thus avoiding a big bang “problem”. (He later said it was the biggest mistake of his professional life.) And yet here we are decades later and the only scientists today who question the Big Bang are currently living in asylums.

ID is murky. Despite what its critics say, it is far from crystal clear that it is not science. Its biggest problem is that no one knows how to test it, testing being required by the scientific method. However if you read the current debate about string theory (a completely unrelated theory from ID that concerns itself with the composition of matter on an atomic level) critics of it argue that it’s quasi science because (yup, you guessed it) it can’t be tested. And yet science has embraced debate about string theory accepting it as science-worthy.

And so I try not to believe I’m too enlightened about some issues, like ID. Self-professed enlightenment in the face of certain uncertainty makes my skin crawl. Judge Jones’s opinion and ID’s critics act a tad too enlightened for my taste. Which brings me full circle to the thrust of my original comment, namely that the law can’t solve this one (or the abortion issue) yet, even if it likes to pretend to.

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