Pa. Voters Eject School Board Amidst Evolution Debate

Residents of Dover, Penn., voted out almost every member of their local school board last week. Eight people ran against a policy requiring the mention of intelligent design in classrooms, and all of them won. Steve Inskeep talks to one of the newly elected board members, Bernadette Reinking.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're reporting this morning on the future of intelligent design. It's the idea that a higher power must have guided the development of life and it received a much publicized defeat last week. Voters of Dover, Pennsylvania, replaced almost every single member of their local school board. The board had ordered intelligent design to be mentioned in science classrooms. Eight people ran against that intelligent design policy and all eight of them won. Last week's election is just one of many developments across the country, as we're about to hear. We will start in Dover, Pennsylvania, with one of the winning school board members, Bernadette Reinking, a registered nurse, a mother of four and now a school board member-elect.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. BERNADETTE REINKING (School Board Member-Elect): Well, hello.

INSKEEP: Can you just describe what had been happening in Dover classrooms under the old board?

Ms. REINKING: In the biology class, a one-minute statement was read that stated there were gaps in Darwin's theory and that there was other options such as intelligent design.

INSKEEP: That was the policy of the old board. How did you get involved in the political fight over that policy?

Ms. REINKING: Well, intelligent design was not one of the reasons that I ran for the school board. I had other issues, but our group wants to put intelligent design in an elective course so that students can talk about all religions in a philosophy course or in a religion of the world course, so that all faiths are discussed.

INSKEEP: There was an entire slate of these eight candidates...

Ms. REINKING: Yes, there was.

INSKEEP: ...and you were all opposed to teaching intelligent design in the science classroom in this biology class.

Ms. REINKING: That's correct.

INSKEEP: What's wrong with having it there?

Ms. REINKING: Well, we don't think that you can follow a scientific method to prove it. We think that intelligent design comes from your heart and your soul and it pretty much equals religion. And so we feel that's an individual thing. We don't believe that you don't have to talk about it. We just believe it needs to be in a different part of the curriculum.

INSKEEP: You didn't say keep it out of the schools entirely.

Ms. REINKING: No.

INSKEEP: You just said keep it out of the science class.

Ms. REINKING: Right. Because every one of us is a Christian and every one of us believes in God. So we don't have a problem with that. There's a church on every corner in Dover.

INSKEEP: I suppose you heard about the remarks recently--I'd like to play some of them--by the Reverend Pat Robertson...

Ms. REINKING: Sure.

INSKEEP: ...referring to Dover, Pennsylvania...

Ms. REINKING: Right.

INSKEEP: ...who said that your town had voted God out of your town. This is what he said.

Reverend PAT ROBERTSON: I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city, and don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin.

INSKEEP: Did you vote God out of your city?

Ms. REINKING: No. We just put him in a place where everybody could talk about him. You can't speak about God in a science class, but when you put him in a religion of the world class, the Roman Catholic gets a chance to talk, the Jewish person gets a chance to talk. People of varying religions, they all get their chance to talk. I think we actually brought God in.

INSKEEP: This debate over intelligent design is not over nationally.

Ms. REINKING: Right.

INSKEEP: Do you think this debate is over in Dover, Pennsylvania, after the election?

Ms. REINKING: I think that the judge will probably rule how much this is over or not over. If we take the middle road and put intelligent design in a place where everyone can talk, where there can be critical thinking, where children can learn about each other, I can't see where that would be a problem.

INSKEEP: Well, Bernadette Reinking, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Ms. REINKING: Well, thank you.

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