Deer in the headlights

Yesterday the Kitzmiller trial featured the much-anticipated testimony of former school board member William Buckingham, a figure of controversy because of the religious statements attributed to him in the local press (which he has denied).

After the June 7 and June 14, 2004 board meetings, the York Daily Record and York Dispatch reported that Buckingham said that he wanted “creationism” taught as an alternative to the theory of evolution. The papers reported that he was worried because the textbook proposed by science faculty was “laced with Darwinism” and that he wanted a book with a balance “between creationism and evolution.” His concern: “If you teach evolution over and over again, the students will believe it is fact.” He was said to have challenged a member of the public “to trace your roots to the monkey you came from.”

Buckingham was also quoted as claiming that “separation of church and state is mythic” and that it wasn’t necessary to teach Hindu, Muslim or other religious beliefs alongside creationism because “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. It was founded on Christianity.”

Then, there was the famous quote: “2000 years ago someone died on a cross for us; shouldn’t we have the courage to stand up for him?”

Buckingham said that he never read any of the articles published about the Board meetings (although both papers were delivered to his house every day) and that for the most part he wasn’t told what was being reported. He testified that he hadn’t reviewed the news articles to prepare for trial because he didn’t “give a darn thing about what they print.”

When asked to read the news articles, Buckingham testified that the reporters for the Daily Record and the Dispatch got most things right, but that they “made up” his use of the word “creationism.” He also said that some statements – including “2000 years ago…” and “…founded on Christianity” — were things he had said in late 2003, after a Board debate over requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance that focused on the words “under God” in the pledge.

[Gratuitous side comment: The courts have held unequivocally that the First Amendment forbids a school from requiring a student to recite the pledge.]

Buckingham said he believed that the reporters simply substituted the word “creationism” every time a Board member said “intelligent design.” He stated emphatically that neither he nor any other School Board member ever used the word “creationism” during any School Board meeting, Curriculum Committee meeting, private discussion or to the press.

Then Steve Harvey of Pepper Hamilton LLP played for Buckingham a segment aired by Fox News in the summer of 2004. All around the courtroom, Buckingham’s face appeared on monitors and screens, saying, “It’s OK to teach Darwinism, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism.”

Buckingham said he’d forgotten about that interview. He characterized the interview by the Fox News reporters as an “ambush” and said he’d felt like a “deer in the headlights.” He then explained that he had been so concerned about all the news reports that used the word “creationism” – the same reports he’d said that he never read, wasn’t told about and didn’t “give a darn thing about” – that he was concentrating really hard on not using that word and it just slipped out. “I made a mistake,” he said.

At his first deposition, Buckingham had testified that he “absolutely” voted to purchase Biology in time for the beginning of classes in the Fall of 2004. Yesterday, Buckingham conceded that he had voted against buying the biology textbook to try to force the Board to purchase Pandas as a companion text. He agreed with the news report that he had said, “If he didn’t get his book, then the District would not get its book.”

Buckingham testified that he learned about Pandas from Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center, when seeking a textbook that offered an alternative to evolution. In proposing the curriculum change, Buckingham sought only legal advice, never any educational or scientific advice. Nor did he consult the Curriculum Advisory Committee, which is made up of Dover Area residents, because he was new to the Board and didn’t realize that was Board policy.

Finally, Mr. Harvey asked Buckingham about the School Distric’s acquisition of dozens of copies of Pandas. Buckingham testified that members of his church had donated money for the purchase of the books, and that he written a check to Donald Bonsell, father of the President of the School Board Alan Bonsell [who will be testifying next week]. He stated that he didn’t share that information when a member of the public asked how the district got Pandas because he “didn’t think it was relevant.”

Mr. Harvey then asked Buckingham to read from his deposition. Mr. Harvey had asked where the books came from and Buckingham had responded that he did not know who had donated the books, but that he had “deduced” there might be a tie to Alan Bonsell just because Bonsell was Board President. In the same deposition Buckingham said he did not ask where the books came from “because I didn’t want to know.”

“Didn’t you lie to me?” asked Mr. Harvey. Buckingham responded that his deposition answer was truthful because he didn’t know the names of the church members who had made cash donations for the purchase of the books.

Then, came the reporter…

Immediately after Buckingham’s testimony, Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, the author of the York Dispatch articles that Buckingham claimed were inaccurate, testified. ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak walked Ms. Bernhard-Bubb through each of the eight articles and she confirmed that her quotes were correct. In particular, she confirmed that she heard Buckingham and other Board members say they wanted to add “creationism” to the biology curriculum at June 7, 2004 Board meeting and heard Buckingham use that word again at the June 14 Board meeting. She testified that the phrase “intelligent design” was not mentioned until the August 2, 2004 Board meeting – which is why it did not appear in any of her articles until August. She also confirmed that she heard Buckingham make the other statements she attributed to him.

Ms. Bernhard-Bubb will be cross examined today.

submitted by Mary Catherine Roper, Staff Attorney, ACLU of PA

26 thoughts on “Deer in the headlights

  1. He characterized the interview by the Fox News reporters as an “ambush” and said he’d felt like a “deer in the headlights.” He then explained that he had been so concerned about all the news reports that used the word “creationism” – the same reports he’d said that he never read, wasn’t told about and didn’t “give a darn thing about” – that he was concentrating really hard on not using that word and it just slipped out. “I made a mistake,” he said.
    LAUGHING MY A– OFF! He’s too good to be true:-)

  2. He’s a school board member! Is that just a hoot.
    We have a school board just like this…they’ll be the next fools in federal court. It’s the same ole speach “It’s a Christian nation,” we need to “stand up for Jesus,” “The Constitution says NOTHING about seperation of church and state.”
    They run our schools but have never read a history book. They aren’t even required to be literate. A sad state of affairs.

  3. He *was* a member of the Board. News reports are that he has resigned from the Borad and moved to North Carolina (which, I suppose, means that state will be next in line…).

    It boggles the mind that he was so new to the Board ‘that he didn’t know the Curriculum committee’ made those decisions. Was if cluelessness or deliberate ignorance?

    The only thing dumber than this guy is the electorate that put him in place.

  4. No, plaintiff’s witness, this was his direct testimony being discussed.

    He was called out of order though I haven’t heard why.

  5. “He was called out of order though I haven’t heard why.”

    Because he refused to pull his head out of his ass.

  6. The next person to say that this country was founded on Christianity is getting a boot up his/her ass. The founders were deistic and masonic, but our Constitution was written on the writings of John Locke, Voltaire (or whatever you want to call him), and I guess the Code of Hammurabi. I’m not sure about the last one, but the point is that the Ten Commandments have nothing to do with the Constitution.

  7. fishyfred, you need a laugh. Exhale, lighten up, what IS their chance of winning? Read…

    Toying with Religion

    He who dies with the most toys, wins.

    He who denies himself the most toys, wins.

    They were our toys first.

    Greek Orthodox
    No, they were OURS first.

    There is no toy maker.

    There are many toy makers.

    The toys made themselves.

    Everyone gets the same number of toys.

    Once a toy is dipped in the water, it is no longer dry.

    It is not possible to know whether toys make a bit of difference.

    Every boy can have as many toys as he wants.

    Church of Christ, Scientist
    We are the toys.

    Branch Davidians
    He who dies playing with the biggest toys, wins.

    All toys are just fine with us.

    Toys with batteries are surely a sin.

    Hare Krishna
    He who plays with the most toys, wins.

    Toys! Toys! Toys! Toys! Toys!

    He who messes with the plastic farm animals, loses.

    7th Day Adventist
    He who plays with his toys on Saturday, loses.

    Church of Christ
    He whose toys make music, loses.

    Once played, always played.

    We don’t care where the toys came from.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses
    He who sells the most toys door-to-door, wins.

    He whose toys have tongues, wins.

    Toys are a figment of your imagination.

    Is the toy in the Bible?

    The doll is as important as the dumptruck.

    Let me borrow that doll for a second.

  8. How strange, if only to me, that those who reject biological Darwinism both accept and profit from social Darwinism.

  9. tsarbeck,

    Interesting!! Certainly true for rich conservatives, though most working class conservatives will not profit… particularly if their science curricula continue to degrade.

  10. This guy is absolutely priceless. From his ignorant religious promotion to his drug addiction and his “ambush” by FOX news (of all media outlets)! The lies are unbelievable. I only wish I could have been in the courtroom – his examination must’ve been hilarious to watch.

    If the plaintiffs don’t win this case on a slam dunk, I don’t know where this country is going. The judgment should be so strong that the defense is totally discouraged from even appealing, from what I’ve read of the transcripts. And I hope it sends a red-hot message to Kansas as well.

  11. Scientolgy
    Xenu tossed all of the toys into a volcano

    As for that “Christian” country crap, check out the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams in 1797:

    “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

  12. Fisheyfred said… “The next person to say that this country was founded on Christianity is getting a boot up his/her ass. The founders were deistic and masonic, but our Constitution was written on the writings of John Locke, Voltaire (or whatever you want to call him), and I guess the Code of Hammurabi. I’m not sure about the last one, but the point is that the Ten Commandments have nothing to do with the Constitution.”

    Those were not my words, those are words our our school board here. Dover and Kansas are not the only districts who have fundamentalist members set to change the world through education. A few locals encourage the board, giving them “power” via supporters.
    Anyone who has ever read the Constitution knows what it says and doesn’t say. Unfortunately, most American haven’t ever read it -or a book.
    Too many Americans sit around wondering “what can I do?” So they do nothing and go watch Survivor or Desperate Housewives and assume the government will “take care of it.”
    Our founding fathers would be so ashamed.

  13. This trial has me thoroughly confused. How is it possible that the school board defense team can be so frigging inept????

    It makes no sense at all.

    My read of the transcripts is that the judge is so pissed that his time has been so thoroughly wasted by this trial, that the defense is going to really get a wringing out.

    I imagine the judge is sorely tempted at this point to come up with a summary judgment that goes further than what the plaintiffs beg, perhaps one that totally outlaws evangelical christianity….or maybe simply banishes them all to an iceberg in the arctic ocean.

  14. Assuming Dover loses, will they have to pay costs?

    The Thomas Moore Center is paying their legal bills, but will thety pay the ACLUs costs?

    If I was a Dover tax payer, I’d be pissed at the potential financial liability. But that’s what you get when you elect charlatans.

    Cheers, Neil.

  15. Da: []
    Inviato: lunedì 31 ottobre 2005 10.34
    A: ‘’
    Cc: ‘’
    Oggetto: ACLU’s position is wrong
    Priorità: Alta


    From: Gregg
    Reference to…
    Evolution Debate in Kansas Spurs Battle Over School Materials
    Teaching of Theory’s Doubts Spurs National Academy of Sciences, Teachers Association to Bar Use of Curriculum Guidelines
    By Rick Weiss
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, October 28, 2005; Page A02

    Dear Rick,
    In writing, I wish to compliment you on your choice of ‘topics’ for your above referenced article. I personally find the battle between science’s ‘Evolution’ vs. science’s ‘Intelligent Design’ humorous at best, considering that both are considered to be operating fields of somewhat higher-intelligence levels amongst the human-race.

    Humorous? Yes! As, in following their debates which have now entered the era (error) of depriving students of their own personal rights to free thought and formulation of their convictions in the future, these geniuses have in fact violated their own premise of existence and funding (either from private and/or government sectors).

    Personally, I would like the opportunity of addressing, with both factors, the ‘Reality’ and ‘Fact’ that: Evolution, and its definitions and/or so-called researched facts, demonstrate only that the ‘Beginning’ has in FACT evolved in an extremely intelligent fashion. Science cannot rule out – or deny that: either 4 billion years ago (or even further beyond their capacities to know) or at the beginning of ‘All’ that exists, there is a Source or Origin for this Event. Just as they cannot demonstrate, or deny, the existence of multiple universes within the so-called ‘Physical Dimension or Realm’. Thusly, science cannot rule-out ‘Intelligent Design’ and/or Creator … Origin … or the Like, as being the FACT and Truth beyond their intelligence discoveries within evolution as they see it and research it for Scientific Conclusion and Fact.

    Attempts to ‘inhibit and/or limit’ studies that lead to the ‘Origin’ of their studies are IN-FACT contradiction to the intelligence community’s aims and/or proclaimed endeavors. In fact: their attempts to hinder research and free intelligent thought is a violation of society’s support and trust in the very same ‘Scientific Sector’. No individual and/or group funded by public and/or private funds holds right to deny ‘Other’ to research beyond their stated ‘Limited Boundaries’ of interest; such as the Science Organizations and Scientific Teacher’s Associations are attempting in Kansas. Further, any organization within the Physical Universes which attempts to do so, should in fact be deemed to be a threat to ‘man’s eventual realization and knowledge of Self and Origin which is essential for the future evolution of ‘man’ and ‘nature’ (and clearly in our present the environments which support life itself) beyond that which science sees within its scope.

    Surprisingly, a group that claims to be so vast and outreaching in its endeavors comes to conclusions of avid ‘self defense of scientific fact (?)’ that was purely evolved from initial theory (or should I say in many cases ‘ridiculous ideas’ for the common man); instead of suggesting the combining of forces involved with ‘Evolution’ and ‘The Origin and Reasoning’ beyond and within its OBVIOUS INTELLIGENT DESIGN. I often wondered why I needed a scientist to tell me I was alive and having functions of a ‘miraculous nature’; living always with the thought that if I passed from ‘monkey or ape’ to the state I am in today: that I was in fact progressing physically in a manner, which (as man) demonstrates to be both progressively evolutionary and also of a regressive nature or capacity capable to destroy that which over 4 billion years (according to science) was intelligently created within the Nature of the ‘Physical Nature and Being (as existence)’. Not being so limited as ‘many scientists’ to get hung-up on the ‘monkey-shine’ theory; at times, I wander back through ‘evolutionary trails and pondering’ trying to imagine in a mental mirror if I once reflected a ‘beautiful slime-like …me’; or a miniscule molecular of light. Who knows? Science (as those who move to block intelligent thought processes) certainly will never arrive at this potential, if it continues to operate within its self-imposed limitations and small worlds.

    In brief, I back the ‘Intelligent Design Study Program’ due to the demonstrated (and emphatically clear) short-sightedness of the ‘Traditional Evolutionary Science Groups and Teacher Associa-tions’! No ‘Group’ or ‘Individual’ holds ‘Title’ to thought and theory; especially when they cannot factually demonstrate that ‘Intelligent Design’ is not in FACT the Truth of our very Being and Existence. IF, no money was given … no legal freedom allowed … and free thought was denied to the very Founders of Their Scientific Community and Endeavor, I ask where would these ‘road-blockers’ be today? Geniuses ‘Who’ do not err? We have, on a worldwide basis, seen that this is not scientific fact! And, we ‘society’ have always paid the price … at times (never to be forgotten) with many of our lives.

    In summary, once science demonstrates (as in their Kansas restrictions) the intention and/or will to blackmail or halt freedom of thought and expression: those whom are involved are to be in fact legally halted under the ‘Constitution of the United States of America’ … and further, by the International Community who desires the ‘Truth and Reality’ of our ‘Origin’; be ‘It’ of natural evolution and independent of any other ‘Reality’; or be it of an ‘Intelligent Being’ beyond physical and biological science’s capacities and/or desires to see. ‘Man’ has the inalienable right to research and freely take into consideration the possibility of the Existence of his ‘God’: be same named ‘God’ or ‘Allah’, or ‘Buddha’, or ‘Great Spirit’; and those whom believe to be alone here have the undeniable right to be presented all available paragons and/or theories, so that they may arrive of free intellect and will at their ‘Truth’. The ‘Traditional Science Community’ is IN FACT attempting to deny these rights! It is attempting to deny ‘Evolution and Civilization’ its right to discover without theory and/or doubt … its very Nature.

    Best regards,
    F. Gregg Meagher
    in Italy:
    Tel. +39 035 953934
    Fax. +39 035 852623
    Mobile: 339 2380481
    Postal Address:
    Via Brigata Lupi di Toscana, 140
    Sant’Omobono Imagna, BG Italy 24038

  16. umm, that gregg charachter is a little out of his league here.

    Evolution makes NO (that’s zero) claims about the origin of life.

    It doesn’t claim to have the answer and it for sure isn’t stopping scientists who right now are making strides in discovering how RNA and DNA could have come into being… it’s being researched right now.

    Also, what does the “intelligence” community have to do with anything? I mean did he think that the FBI and CIA were involved in the theory of evolution in some way?

    I found the post to be rambling, long and without a final point as it’s original assumptions were incorrect. Thanks for playing though.

  17. Lying for Jesus.

    Is that some kind of sacrament that I missed hearing about? It sure seems like all the Important Christians feel obligated to do it.

  18. Evolution in biology doesn’t concern itself with the origins of life, that’s true, primarily because the origin of life is a historical question for which there is very little evidence.

    The concept of evolution, however is much broader. It explains things like osmosis and evaporative cooling. And that concept implies that life *could have* arisen spontaneously from unliving matter.

    It makes divine intervention in the origin of life redundant… and we all know what Occam’s Razor does with redundancies.

  19. Yeah, this guy Buckingham is a real piece of work, isn’t he?

    His blaming of his memory problems on his “OxyContin addiction”
    caught my eye. I found this article through Google:

    Overcoming the Pain – A Dover
    school board member will enter rehab for OxyContin addiction

    Now I’m not a doctor, but I do happen to know a lot about opioids
    from personal experience. Six years ago, I had foot surgery that
    damaged a nerve and left me with chronic pain. I’ve been going to a
    local pain clinic since 2002, and they’ve treated me with a variety of
    opioid and non-opioid medications. Based on personal experience, I can
    say that opioids, including OxyContin, do not affect memory,
    at least when taken as directed. Nor have I ever heard of such effects
    in others — and I read a lot of medical journals on pain.

    Many persistent myths surround opioids: they’re highly addictive
    and toxic, they impair functioning and are unsuitable for chronic
    pain. Growing scientific evidence backs up my personal experience:
    trained doctors can safely and effectively treat chronic pain with
    opioids for many years, and they’re remarkably non-toxic — unlike
    Tylenol, for example, which can destroy the liver with little warning.
    Yes, nearly everyone who takes opioids will, over time, develop
    physical dependence — withdrawal symptoms when the drug is suddenly
    discontinued — but physical dependence is not addiction!
    Addiction is defined solely as
    uncontrolled use despite harm, and that has proved remarkably
    rare in legitimate pain management. Simple physical dependence is
    easily treated by slowly tapering the dose, possibly after switching
    to methadone.

    Any experienced pain specialist will gladly confirm these facts.

    The February 2004 article made it clear to me that Buckingham was
    almost certainly a legitimate chronic pain patient who was physically
    dependent, not addicted. So either 1) he had some pretty incompetent
    and uninformed doctors, or 2) he flatly rejected their informed
    advice, convinced himself that he was an “addict” and put himself through
    an unpleasant, unnecessary withdrawal. And he’s probably still in pain.

    Now, given Buckingham’s history of flatly rejecting scientific
    theories firmly supported by overwhelming empirical evidence (e.g.,
    the theory of evolution, to pick a random example), which explanation
    do you think is most likely?

    I’m not a religious person, but I’m beginning to think that maybe,
    just maybe, there is such a thing as karma. At the very least,
    irrationality and scientific ignorance are their own reward.

    I actually pity Buckingham for being a victim of his own willful
    ignorance. But the worse tragedy is that he’s not alone. Many people
    succumb to the myths and shrill propaganda about opioids, even for
    legitimate pain control, just as they fall prey to the myths and
    misconceptions about evolution and “creationism”. How will we ever
    progress unless people either think like scientists, or at least defer
    to those who are?

  20. “…or maybe simply banishes them [evangelical Christians] all to an iceberg in the arctic ocean.”

    I think those kinds of statements make it harder to contend that evolution – and science in general – is objective and not in conflict with religion. I know a lot of Christians who feel a personal responsibility to spread the word of their faith whenever possible BUT within the boundaries of the law and with respect to the diversity of this nation. Let’s not lump all believers in with the idiots.

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