Dover School Board Pays $1 Million In Legal Fees To End Creationism Suit

The final chapter of Americans United’s legal challenge to “intelligent design” creationism in Dover, Pa., was written Feb. 22 when the school voted to pay $1 million in legal fees, thus ending the litigation.

The $1-million figure was worked  out between attorneys with the board and staff attorneys with Americans United and the Pennsylvania ACLU. AU and the ACLU actually spent more than $2 million on the case but agreed to cut the cost to lessen the burden on the small district.

In November, Dover voters ousted board members who had implemented the pro-intelligent-design policy and replaced them with a slate that favors teaching evolution. Richard Katskee, AU assistant legal director, said the vote is evidence that the people of Dover wanted to do the right thing.

Katskee added that other school districts tempted to flirt with ID should take notice.

“This sends a message to other school districts contemplating intelligent design that the price tag can be truly substantial, and it rewards the school district and the community for cleaning their own house and voting out the old board,” Katskee told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Plaintiffs in the case said they were angry that the old board refused to drop the policy and ended up sticking the community with a large bill.

But former board members said they had no regrets.

“I don’t have anything to apologize for,” ex-member Ronald Short told the York Daily Record. “I believe in what the board did before.”

Dover captured international headlines after its board voted late in 2004 to present a pro-ID, anti-evolution message in science class. When Dover science teachers refused to read the statement, administrators had to take on the task.

Americans United and the ACLU tried to persuade the board to reverse course, but a majority refused. The civil liberties groups worked with the Phila­delphia law firm of Pepper Hamil­ton to attack the ID policy in court.

In December, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down the Dover policy and, in a sweeping opinion, blasted ID as unscientific and a violation of church-state separation. Jones criticized the board for pushing the ID policy.

The shock waves from that ruling are still being felt. Ohio’s Board of Education recently reversed course and dropped a pro-ID policy.

Other recent developments include:

• South Carolina’s Board of Education has voted 11-6 to retain a science policy that discusses only evolution. In February, the state’s Education Over­sight Committee voted 10-2 to add language calling for students to “critically analyze” evolution to the 10th-grade Biology guidelines. Such language is widely seen as code for ID, and the board rejected it.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle group that promotes intelligent design, had lobbied for the change. An Institute representative even traveled to Colum­bia, S.C., and distributed Institute materials to members of the Oversight Com­mit­tee. One was a press release titled, “South Carolina Has Historic Oppor­tunity to Adopt Science Standards for Critical Analysis of Evolution.”

• Legislators in Utah have rejected a bill that would have required science teachers to read a statement to students asserting that not all scientists agree about evolution. Utah’s Senate approved the bill, but it died in the state House of Representatives after a 46-28 vote. The vote came after Rep. Stephen H. Urquhart, a Mormon and Republican majority whip, removed the most controversial provisions from the measure. Urquhart told reporters he does not believe God has an argument with science.

• A masonry contractor in Nevada is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would add language to the state constitution forcing science teachers to tell students that some scientists do not accept evolution.

Steve Brown, of Las Vegas, told Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink that he resents evolution being taught as a fact.