8/24/2012

Dover (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District)

  • "[T]eachers would be required to read the following statement to students in the ninth-grade biology class at Dover High School:
    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.
    2. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being 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.
    3. 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 to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
    4. As is true with 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., Case No. 04cv2688, was the first direct challenge brought in United States federal courts against a public school district that tried to mandate teachers to read a statement to the students about intelligent design as an alternative "explanation" to evolution. The plaintiffs claimed that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
      Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District has closely examined the implications of intelligent design for public schools. The Memorandum Opinion by Judge John E. Jones III sets out his findings in considerable detail and will have significant influence. {See kitzmiller_342.pdf for the Memorandum as originally formatted (pdf).}
     Because of the size of this memorandum, the article is split into parts determined by topics. Successive parts are listed below:
  1. Introduction (1-17)
  2. Context (17-35)
  3. Disclaimer (36-64)
  4. Whether ID Is Science (64-89)
  5. Promoting Religion (90-116)
  6. Curriculum, Conclusion (116-139)
  • [T]he better practice in this Circuit is for this Court to also evaluate the challenged conduct separately under the Lemon test.18 See Child Evangelism, 386 F.3d at 530-35; Modrovich, 385 F.3d at 406; Freethought, 334 F.3d at 261. As articulated by the Supreme Court, under the Lemon test, a government sponsored message violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment if:
         (1) it does not have a secular purpose;
         (2) its principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion; or
         (3) it creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion.
     Lemon, 403 U.S. at 612-13. As the Lemon test is disjunctive, either an improper purpose or an improper effect renders the ID Policy invalid under the Establishment Clause.19


  • "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
    
     Originally, the First Amendment applied only to the federal government. A number of the states effectively had established churches when the First Amendment was ratified, with some remaining into the early nineteenth century.
     Subsequently, Everson v. Board of Education (1947) incorporated the Establishment Clause (i.e., made it apply against the states). However, it was not until the middle to late twentieth century that the Supreme Court began to interpret the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in such a manner as to restrict the promotion of religion by the states. In the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), Justice David Souter, writing for the majority, concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion."[1]

   Note: Defintion of "religion:  1) The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods."