Kitzmiller coverage begins


The trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools, is scheduled to begin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 2005, and the media are already focusing attention on the case. As the York Dispatch [Link broken] (September 23, 2005) reports, journalists from The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and National Public Radio have already reserved space in the courtroom; Court TV sought but was denied permission to televise the trial. Paula Knudsen of the ACLU remarked, "It's the first time ["intelligent design"] has ever been in a curriculum, so whatever happens will be of interest ... It's a debate ... about religion's place in society and that more than anything I think gets people fired up."

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal (September 22, 2005), NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "The results of the Dover trial will be extremely significant for American public school education ... If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs, then this will truly throw sand in the gears of efforts to get intelligent design taught at the high school level." But, she warned, "If the judge rules ... for the district, I think this will give a green light to school districts that would like to introduce some form of creationism in the classroom." Bryan Rehm, a plaintiff in the case, also offered his assessment: "If the school board gets it in its favor, we've got one more place in the country where kids aren't getting an acceptable science education ... And if we win, the school board gets stuck footing the bill."

New Scientist's story (September 23, 2005) noted that the plaintiffs will argue that "intelligent design" is simply "a religious belief that masquerades as science to sidestep a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the teaching of creationism in schools." Comparing the "intelligent design" textbook Of Pandas and People, first published in 1989, with pre-1987 drafts of the book, Witold Walczak of the ACLU explained, "It's identical except for where it says creationism it now says intelligent design." (Of Pandas and People is central to the case, because the oral disclaimer required by the Dover Area School Board specifically recommends the book "for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves"; copies of the book were anonymously donated in bulk to the school district.)

Information about the Kitzmiller trial is available from NCSE, the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the court itself.