Judge in 'intelligent design' case reflects
Share with others:
CARLISLE, Pa. -- A federal judge who outlawed the teaching of "intelligent design" in science class told graduates at Dickinson College that the nation's founders saw religion as the result of personal inquiry, not church doctrine.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones gave the commencement address yesterday to 500 graduates at Dickinson College, his alma mater.
"The founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry," said Judge Jones, who was thrust into the national spotlight by last year's court fight over the teaching of evolution in the Dover school district.
The founding fathers -- from school namesake John Dickinson to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson -- were products of the Enlightenment, Judge Jones said.
"They possessed a great confidence in an individual's ability to understand the world and its most fundamental laws through the exercise of his or her reason," he said.
"This core set of beliefs led the founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state."
Following a six-week trial last year that explored concepts in biology, theology and paleontology, Judge Jones concluded that the Dover Board of Education had violated the separation between church and state.
Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by some kind of higher being. In his ruling, Judge Jones called it "an old religious argument for the existence of God" and accused the school board of "breathtaking inanity" in trying to teach it.
The school board had argued that it hoped to expose students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
The case cost the district more than $1 million in legal fees -- and cost school board members, who were turned out in November's election, their seats.
Judge Jones credited his liberal arts education at Dickinson, more than his law school years, for preparing him for what he called his "Dover moment."
"It was my liberal arts education ... that provided me with the best ability to handle the rather monumental task of deciding the Dover case," he said.
First Published May 22, 2006 12:00 am