MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In Dover, Pennsylvania, a fight over including what's called intelligent design in the science curriculum led to an overhaul of the school board in yesterday's election. Eight members of the board, all Republicans who supported the introduction of intelligent design, were voted out of office. They'll be replaced by eight challengers, who campaigned against the policy, and all ran as Democrats. Intelligent design argues that the universe is so complex that Darwinian evolution can't explain it and a higher force must have designed it. Critics say intelligent design is simply creationism, a wolf entering the curriculum in sheep's clothing. The debate has created sharp divisions in Dover. Christina Kauffman has been covering the story for the York Dispatch.
And, Ms. Kauffman, was the election result last night a surprise, all these eight incumbents voted out?
Ms. CHRISTINA KAUFFMAN (York Dispatch): It was. The Dover CARES group was very surprised in that they were hoping at least to be able to capture a majority on the board. But they were very pleasantly surprised.
BLOCK: You mentioned Dover CARES. These are the new board members. They ran as a slate. What do they say about intelligent design? What do they think about it?
Ms. KAUFFMAN: The stand that they've taken on intelligent design is that it should not be introduced into science curriculum but, rather, offered in a course such as comparative religion, an elective course in which students could decide whether or not they wanted to hear about the movement.
BLOCK: And have they said--do they plan to reverse the policy as it stands now?
Ms. KAUFFMAN: Well, while they've all said that they do oppose the mention of intelligent design in science, they won't say that they intend to immediately repeal the policy, partially because this kind of swift policy-making is something that they have criticized their opponents for. And as one newly elected board member, Brian Rehm, who's also a plaintiff in this suit, has said, this is not a mandate. It was a close election, and clearly there are people in the community who support intelligent design.
BLOCK: Now the school board changed the curriculum last year to introduce intelligent design. Explain what they did exactly.
Ms. KAUFFMAN: Well, there were several different curriculum changes that were proposed. What the board decided to do was actually the most aggressive of the three options presented, and that is to basically say the theory of evolution has gaps and problems in it and then, also, to include mention of intelligent design, which later came to include a four-paragraph statement which basically said there are problems in the theory of evolution and intelligent design was offered as an alternative theory. It also included making reference to the book "Of Pandas and People," which is an intelligent design textbook published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics.
BLOCK: And this statement is supposed to be read in ninth-grade science classes.
Ms. KAUFFMAN: Yes, it was read in science classes.
BLOCK: Now all of this is being challenged in federal court, the first legal test, as I understand it, for intelligent design, and the trial ended just last week. What does the judge have to decide?
Ms. KAUFFMAN: The judge has to decide whether or not the policy adopted by Dover's board is in violation of the First Amendment establishment clause, which basically prohibits governments from establishing or restricting religion. The judge has to look at the evidence and decide whether or not the board was religiously motivated, if there was a secular purpose for the policy being put in place and basically look at their intentions behind the policy as well.
BLOCK: And if this new board decides to change the policy on intelligent design, what happens to that court case?
Ms. KAUFFMAN: Well, the court case--you know, the testimony is not going to be lost. The judge could very well come back with an order before the new board even takes seat. And if the judge comes back with a decision before then, everything is pretty much up in the air in that case. If the decision comes back after the new board is seated, they've said that they wouldn't intend to file an appeal. The opinion of the group is that the judge is going to come back in favor of the parents who filed the suit.
BLOCK: Christina Kauffman, thanks for talking with us.
Ms. KAUFFMAN: Thank you.
BLOCK: Christina Kauffman is a reporter with the York Dispatch. She was talking about the election results in Dover, Pennsylvania, where supporters of intelligent design were voted off the school board yesterday.
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