Why the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Case Mattered

We recently passed the third anniversary of the decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case (this past Dec. 20th). Something to keep in mind is that what is at issue isn’t science at all, but rather the pushing of a narrow sectarian religious view via the public schools. Our founding fathers knew of the history of the wars and other turmoil caused by entangling religion and government in Europe, and didn’t care to have that as an inheritance for the new nation here.

The experience of the plaintiffs in Dover, Pennsylvania demonstrates that our founding fathers were absolutely right to reject having the government pass along doctrinal religious issues in what it did. The following are quotes taken from various of the plaintiffs describing what, exactly, caused them harm as a result of the Dover Area School Board implementing their “intelligent design” creationism policy.

Now people stare. They know you’re a Plaintiff or they know in this particular case that I’m a candidate opposing the school board, and you can’t sit there and not worry about who’s looking at you or what’s going to happen, you know. You’ll go out and regularly be called inappropriate things centering around the concept of atheist.

They don’t know me. They don’t know that I’m the co-director of the children’s choir at church or that I run the music halfway at the second service, or that, you know, my wife and I run Vacation Bible School. Yet they have no problem going around calling me an atheist because my particular religious viewpoint doesn’t agree with that of the school board, which is a public entity not a religious one.

Q. We just need you to tell us. The question was, how does that cause you harm, and you started to complain how this causes harm. If you could complete your answer?

A. Professionally covered. Personally, you know, going out, we have issues with people, where they’re not very pleased to see us around and are not hesitating to let you know that. And it’s not very polite. It goes beyond atheist to adding other words onto it that I don’t care to repeat.

So there is a lot of issues and a lot of different ways in which it hurts me, not to mention now my daughter is in the biology course, and there are students in the class that want to know, well, what if you do come from monkeys? What’s going on with this? Well, you know that evolution doesn’t make sense. Why are your parents doing this?

So it has filtered down to the kids, and it’s affecting my children directly. And that’s a problem. And if the school board didn’t pass the policy, it never would have occurred. Prior to their policy change, I never once had a student in class criticize another student for believing evolution, even when we were teaching it. It didn’t happen.

And, you know, I’ve been — there have been letters written about the Plaintiffs. We’ve been called atheists, which we’re not. I don’t think that matters to the Court, but we’re not. We’re said to be intolerant of other views.

Well, what am I supposed to tolerate? A small encroachment on my First Amendment rights? Well, I’m not going to. I think this is clear what these people have done. And it outrages me.

Q. Now, I’d like to know if you can tell us whether you feel that you’ve been harmed by the actions of the Dover area school district board of directors.

A. Absolutely. I feel that they have brought a religious idea into the classroom, and I object to that. I do not think that this is good science. There seems to be no controversy within the scientific community, and I would think the biggest thing for me as a parent, my 14-year-old daughter had to make the choice whether to stay in the classroom and listen to the statement, be confused, not be able to ask any questions, hear any answer, or she had to be singled out, go out of the classroom and face the possible ridicule of her friends and classmates.

We can expect more of the same wherever the religious antievolution ensemble of arguments are pushed in public schools, whether under the “intelligent design” label or the more trendy “strengths and weaknesses”, “academic freedom”, or “critical analysis” labels. It’s still highly divisive narrow sectarian religious content being injected into public schools, and it isn’t the fault of those who don’t happen to agree with that particular doctrinal view that this will continue to be an issue.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

4 thoughts on “Why the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Case Mattered

  • 2008/12/22 at 12:55 pm
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    It would be nice if people didn’t see ‘atheist’ as a four letter word. It almost sounds like, if they were atheists, then it’d be O.K. to harm them. I don’t think that’s their message, but it does sound something like that.

  • 2008/12/24 at 5:21 pm
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    I think this might be a bit unfair.

    It is important to remember that we can intelligently divorce the concept from the propagandist. Someone could be totally dishonest and crazy and ill-intentioned, and yet their idea might be worth legitimate engagement.

    NS
    [url redacted]

  • 2008/12/24 at 9:40 pm
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    The ensemble of religious antievolution arguments have been previously engaged and rebutted. The people pushing them ignore that. They do not now, and have not for quite some time, represented legitimate human inquiry.

    The concept of pushing narrow religious doctrine with the power of the government doesn’t look any better now than when our founding fathers looked to shed that particular source of civil unrest that was rampant in Europe. I don’t know why you would think that concept was worth something no matter what propagandist was pushing it.

    BTW, posting nearly content-free comments with your URL as the primary thing you are pushing makes your stuff look like every spammer around.

Comments are closed.