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Dover voters choose good science at polls

 

Just days after the close of testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, the Dover electorate voiced its opinion at the ballot box in the November 8, 2005, election. Opposing eight pro-"intelligent design" incumbents on the Dover Area School Board were eight candidates -- Bernadette Reinking, Terry Emig, Bryan Rehm (one of the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller), Herbert "Rob" McIlvaine, Judy McIlvaine, Larry Gurreri, Patricia Dapp, and Phil Herman -- running as the Dover CARES (Dover Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies) slate. Dover CARES is bipartisan, although all of its candidates ran as Democrats because incumbent members of the board won the Republican primaries. Although "intelligent design" was not the only focus of the Dover CARES campaign, it took a firm stand on the inappropriateness of teaching "intelligent design" and related religious ideas in the science classroom: "Science class is not the proper curriculum for these concepts."

 

According to election returns published in the York Dispatch (November 8, 2005), it was a clean sweep for the Dover CARES candidates. Ousted were board president Sheila Harkins and former board president Alan Bonsell, both of whom voted for the policy that provoked the Kitzmiller suit, and James Cashman, Sherrie Leber, Dave Napierskie, Eric Riddle, Ed Rowand and Ron Short, all of whom were appointed to the board to fill vacancies by the antievolution majority on the board. Remaining on the board is Heather Geesey, who was not up for re-election; she voted for the antievolution policy. The turnover in the board's composition is not expected to affect the outcome of the Kitzmiller case: the ACLU's Witold Walczak told [Link broken] the Harrisburg Patriot News (November 8, 2005) that the plaintiff's request for a declaratory judgment and nominal damages of $1 were designed to "prevent the case from being mooted" by the election. The newly elected board's first meeting will be on December 5, 2005; a ruling on the case is expected in December or January.

On November 10, 2005, the Reverend Pat Robertson offered a warning to Dover. "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God," Robertson advised. "You just rejected him from your city, and don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin, and I'm not saying they will. But if they do, just remember you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, then don't ask for his help, because he might not be there." Reaction from Dover was reportedly cool. Newly elected school board member Larry Gurreri told the York Daily Record (November 11, 2005) that Robertson's comments were desperate and radical, and added that he would pray for him. Former school board member Jeff Brown, who resigned in protest of the controversial policy, told [Link broken] the York Dispatch (November 11, 2005), "According to sworn testimony, intelligent design has nothing to do with God ... Then Pat Robertson says if you don't support it, God will hate you. These clowns want it both ways."