‘Intelligent Design’ Challenged In Pa. Public School

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Americans Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania are challenging in federal court the promotion of “intelligent design” in public school classrooms.

In October, Pennsylvania’s Dover Area School Board ruled that biology teachers must present “intelligent design” (ID) as an alternative to the scientific theory of evolution. The lawsuit filed in federal court on Dec. 14 on behalf of 11 parents is the first one to challenge the use of ID in public school science classes. ID, the latest variant of creationism, is an assertion that an intelligent supernatural entity has intervened in the history of life.

“Public schools are not Sunday schools, and we must resist any efforts to make them so,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a press statement about the lawsuit. “There is an evolving attack under way on sound education, and the school board’s action in Dover is part of that misguided crusade. ‘Intelligent design’ has about as much to do with science as reality television has to do with reality.”

The two groups’ lawsuit, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, argues that teaching religious concepts in public school science courses entangles government with religion, violating the First Amendment.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that the belief that a supernatural creator is responsible for the origins of humankind is a religious one and cannot be taught in public school science classes. (For more about this topic, see next month’s issue of Church & State.)