Joined: Nov. 2005
|JOHN P.KRILL, JR. and ANTHONY R.HOLTZMAN|
Apr 9, 2006 — In a recent speech, the federal judge in the Dover Area School District intelligent design case defended the correctness of his decision banning the teaching of ID in biology classes. The Honorable John E. Jones III said that "to have ruled in favor of the school board in this case based on the facts that I had before me at the conclusion of the trial, I would have had to overlook precedents entirely and, thus, impress upon the facts of the case my sense or the sense of the public concerning what the law should be - and not what it is."
Judge Jones properly rejected the notion that a judge should not decide cases based on partisan politics, opinion polls, or anything other than the facts and the law. He is on shaky ground, though, in defending the correctness of his decision. In our view, Judge Jones made at least two significant errors that would likely have caused his ruling to be overturned, if the issues had been appealed. Although the Dover school board did not appeal, Judge Jones is now appealing to the court of public opinion. An opposing argument should therefore be heard.
The Dover ID policy was facially neutral toward religion. It did not overtly promote the belief that a divine intelligence created life, nor did it reject the Darwinian view. Instead, it offered alternatives for study. Nevertheless, Judge Jones concluded that the ID policy violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He reached this conclusion primarily by considering the purpose of the ID policy.
Judge Jones' consideration of purpose was not inappropriate in and of itself. A judge is required to consider the purpose of an official policy when seeking to determine whether it violates the establishment clause. However, Judge Jones inappropriately extracted the purpose of the ID policy from the personal motives of certain individual members of the Dover school board rather than from other sources, such as the plain words of the policy. These board members might have voted for the ID policy because it was consistent with their religious beliefs. This is irrelevant to whether the policy was constitutional.
Read it here.