A judge on Tuesday barred the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution at a Pennsylvania school, saying in a scathing rebuke to the school board that it violated a constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools.
U.S. District Judge John Jones dealt a blow to Christian conservatives, who have been pressing for the teaching of creationism in schools and who played a significant role in the re-election of President George W. Bush.
"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school classroom," Jones wrote in a 139-page opinion in the case, brought against the Dover School District.
Jones condemned the "breathtaking inanity" of the policy of the board, all but one of whom have now been ousted by local voters.
"Any asserted secular purposes by the board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective," he said.
Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they must have been the work of an unnamed creator rather than the result of random natural selection, as argued by Charles Darwin in his 1859 theory of evolution.
Opponents argue it is a thinly disguised version of creationism -- a belief that the world was created by God as described in the Book of Genesis -- which the Supreme Court has ruled may not be taught in public schools.
Jones said the students and teachers of Dover High School "deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."
The school district was sued by a group of 11 parents who claimed teaching intelligent design was unconstitutional and unscientific and had no place in high school biology class.
In his ruling, the judge suggested the parents file a claim for damages and legal fees against the school district.
'VICTORY FOR SCIENCE'
Christy Rehm, one of the plaintiffs, said: "This is a victory for education, a victory for science and a victory for science education."
Richard Thompson, head of the Thomas More Law Center which represented the defendants, said in a statement: "The founders of this country would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change (was) in violation of the constitution that they drafted."
Asked about the ruling, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president has said he believed such decisions should be made by local school districts.
"The president has also said that he believes students ought to be exposed to different theories and ideas so that they can fully understand what the debate is about," he said.
The six-week Harrisburg trial, one of the highest-profile court cases on evolution since the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," was closely watched by Christian conservatives in other states who are planning similar initiatives.
The Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the court decision "a significant blow to religious right-led efforts to sneak fundamentalist dogma into public schools under the guise of science."
Thanks to Dan for a link to this article which can be read in its entirety at Yahoo News and while you're there, you can recommend it for others.
I also heard elsewhere that this judge was appointed by George W. Bush - the same George Dimwit Bush who said that Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. (Ironically Bush is lacking is the intelligence department, although he has ample designs on power, spying and war.)