There’s a chance that the legal precedent most used in the coming years of the evolution/creationism controversy will bear the name of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. That’s the name of the complaint filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State through the agency of the Pepper Hamilton LLP law firm.
The complaint compresses the history of “intelligent design” and its pedigree as an offshoot of the “creation science” movement into a surprisingly readable legal document. One can find in the complaint a number of issues which go toward showing that the Dover School District’s “intelligent design policy” (the combination of the adoption of Of Pandas and People as a reference text, the resolution that “intelligent design” is mandated for instruction when evolution is taught, and the further “guidance” that no crtiticism of “intelligent design” is to be done) does violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. There’s just about everything you can think of in the complaint, from the acknowledged religious motivation of the authors of the Pandas textbook through the identity of content between modern “intelligent design” and the “creation science” struck down in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) to the openly religious (and vicious) attitudes prevailing among the members of the Dover School Board in considering and adopting its “intelligent design policy”. There are several references to McLean v. Arkansas in the complaint.
The Discovery Institute and its Center for […] Science and Culture are given their due recognition as the fount and wellspring of modern “intelligent design”, and its “Wedge” document is also recognized for its explicit ties between “intelligent design” and religious belief. ID advocate Phillip Johnson likewise is quoted to good effect concerning the fact that “intelligent design” is at basis about getting recognition for a creator God. It is wonderful stuff, and there is little wonder that the Discovery Institute is taking pains — and press releases — to distance themselves from the action in Dover, Pennsylvania. The outcome of this lawsuit could set back their socio-political program long enough for some of them to think about whether they should have tried to have made a convincing argument to the scientific community in the first place, rather then try to force their views into school classrooms in advance of showing any scientific content.
At this point, I’m hoping that the Dover School District takes up the offer of free legal representation from the Thomas More Law Center and proceeds to try the suit rather than settle. There are a lot of legal arguments bound within the complaint upon which it would be good to have a ruling.
Some further links:
NCSE summary of action in Pennsylvania
NCSE resources on Of Pandas and People
York Daily Record article on the lawsuit
ACLU site on the case
Thread for discussion of the Dover case