Having read my share of dry judicial opinions over the years, I can tell you that Judge Jones III's verbal smackdown of "intelligent design" (pdf) is a welcomed breath of fresh air.  His opinion spans 139 pages of pure, razor-sharp analysis.  It's beautiful. It's scathing. It's so good I want to wallpaper my dining room with it. Almost.

It's not just his bulletproof legal reasoning that makes this opinion so great. It's how he made sure every fact was memorialized in this landmark opinion. The opinion is long, complex, with various legal tests applied both to the text of the disclaimer and the circumstances of its adoption.  I want to focus though on one particular aspect of the opinion: the ruling that ID supporters were pursuing a religious objective.  Here are some facts you don't hear about from the ID supporters:

  1. The board members wanted a 50-50 ratio between the teaching of creationism and evolution in biology classes (p. 95)
  2.  The President also wanted to inject religion into social studies classes, and supplied the school with a book about the myth of the separation of church and state. (p. 96)
  3. Another board member said "This country wasn't founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such." (p. 102)
  4.  At a meeting, a board member's wife gave a speech, saying that "evolution teaches nothing but lies," quoted from Genesis, asked "how can we allow anything else to be taught in our schools," recited gospel verses telling people to become born again Christians, and stated that evolution violated the teachings of the Bible. (p. 103)
  5. Other statements by board members included "Nowhere in the Constitution does it call for a separation of church and state," and "liberals in black robes" are "taking away the rights of Christians, " and "2,000 years ago someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?"

All this evidence was presented, and yet the defense still claimed that "intelligent design" was secular and they wanted it taught for secular purposes.  They perjured themselves time and time again on the stand in an attempt to inject their religious beliefs into the public school system. Judge Jones, in the most riveting part of the opinion, calls them on their bullshit.  

More on the flip...

"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

The Dover Defendants, as well as the entire ID community, are exposed now as the religious zealots they are.  No more hiding behind "scientific" theories or claims of benign motives.  No, Judge Jones has ripped off their shroud and exposed them as irrational, conniving, manipulative people with no respect for that venerable principle of separation of church and state.

His opinion leaves no doubt that ID is creationism. Moreover, with a great recitation of ID's history, he proves that the "ID movement" is a calculated attempt to relabel creationism in order to bypass the establishment clause. In short, Judge Jones has exposed ID for what it is: a sham by religious fundamentalists to obliterate the separation between church and state.

He pre-empts the inevitable whining about "judicial activism" with this:

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court.  Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal
maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

Damn, that reads like poetry, doesn't it? The reactions to the case on the right have been diverse.  Some are minimizing the case as limited to its facts and jurisdiction. Others are crying foul at the secularist holding. That, of course, is the humor in it all. They contend that ID is not a religious theory then cry religious persecution when ID is rejected.

In any event, Judge Jones should be commended not just for his legal reasoning, but for presenting the case in a manner which definitively puts ID where it belongs--outside the science classroom, and in the realm of religion.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 06:03 PM PST.

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