Intelligent Design in schools comes to the courtroom. Keep an eye on this case. The New York Times sets the stage:
DOVER, Pa., Sept. 23 – Sheree Hied, a mother of five who believes that God created the earth and its creatures, was grateful when her school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about "alternatives" to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design.
But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design – the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them – is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools.
With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.
What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court.
For Mrs. Hied, a meter reader, and her husband, Michael, an office manager for a local bus and transport company, the Dover school board’s argument – that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue – has a strong appeal.
"I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied said over a family dinner last week at their home, where the front door is decorated with a small bell and a plaque proclaiming, "Let Freedom Ring."
What Mrs. Hied doesn’t know is that the government does not have a "right to free speech". And when you are talking about public school curriculums, that’s "the government", baby. There’s also this little thing called "separation of church and state".
But more importantly, there’s also this thing called "science":
But in a split-level house on the other side of Main Street, at a desk flanked by his university diplomas, Steven Stough was on the Internet late the other night, keeping track of every legal maneuver in the case. Mr. Stough, who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax.
"You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn’t pass muster," said Mr. Stough, a Republican whose idea of a fun family vacation is visiting fossil beds and natural history museums. "In science class, you don’t say to the students, ‘Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?’
Anyway, Dover is where the first legal battle line is being drawn.