“Laced with Darwinism”
That was the theme of day two of Kitzmiller v. Dover, as a parent, a teacher and a school board member, all parents with children in the district, testified as to the religious intent of school board members in advocating for the teaching of intelligent design.
This afternoon, Dover parent and plaintiff Tammy Kitzmiller testified that she was drawn into the controversy while reading of the search for new biology books in the York newspaper. The paper quoted a statement of one school board member that a proposed biology book was “laced with Darwinism.” Kitzmiller’s attention was caught. As she explained today, she felt as though the school board was placing religious ideology in the schools, which affected her two school-aged daughters.
Next on the stand was plaintiff Aralene “Barrie” Callahan, who is a parent and former Dover Area School District board member. A board member for 10 years, Callahan recalled attending school board retreats at which members discussed creationism and the need to balance the ideology 50-50 with that of evolution.
Issues surrounding the teaching of evolution came up for Callahan as a parent, too. While, the school board had purchased textbooks for several other classes, they still had not ordered biology books. Callahan’s daughter had no biology book to study from at home because the book the board had originally chosen was “laced with Darwinism.” When Callahan questioned the school board, she was told that they were looking for a different, balanced, textbook.
When asked if she felt harmed by the school district, Callahan stated, “the school district is trying to influence my daughters religious beliefs.” Not only were the board members “demeaning the theory of evolution, but their actions hindered students from learning real science which could ultimately harm them when furthering their education.”
The last plaintiff’s witness of the day was former Dover physics teacher Bryan Rehm. Two of Rehm’s four children attend school in Dover.
Rehm recalled several lunchtime conversations in which teachers discussed the issue of the biology curriculum. After several discussions, the science teachers received a video by a school board member, called “Icons of Evolution.” After they viewed the movie, they met with board members, and voiced their concern regarding the teaching of intelligent design. The science teachers concluded that they were not comfortable teaching ID in biology or other science classes.
Rehm said that he further engaged himself in the debate by attending several board meetings. According to Rehm, the school board demonstrated their religious intent in advocating for intelligent design by making statements regarding creationism and Jesus dying on the cross 2,000 years ago.
Rehm’s testimony was consistent with accounts in two different York newspapers. However, the board members denied in depositions that they ever made such statements – even though they never asked the newspapers for retractions after the articles first appeared.
“There was no discrepancy in what I read in the York Daily Record and what I heard that night,” Rehm stated.
Rehm ended his testimony by relating how he has been harmed both professionally (he no longer is a physics teacher at Dover), and personally, due to the tensions growing within the community. Rehm expressed concern that teachers have not been respected for their opinions and their expertise. According to Rehm, it is the students within the school district who will ultimately suffer.
“There should be no debate,” Rehm said. “Science is science and religion is religion.”
Submitted by Jamie Mullen, legal assistant, ACLU of PA