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The Patriot-News

YORK COUNTY

 

Dover to rerun school election

 

December 30, 2005

BY T.W. BURGER

Of Our Dillsburg Bureau

 

DOVER - Election officials have set up voting machines -- one as a spare -- at Friendship Community Church in preparation of a "rerun" next week of the Nov. 8 intelligent design school board election.

 

Officials said voting in the race between challenger Brian Rehm and incumbent James Cashman was skewed, with Cashman receiving only one vote. Other candidates on the ballot received about 100 votes.

 

One of the three voting machines in one of the six voting precincts appears to have malfunctioned during the election, officials said.

 

Overall, Rehm outpaced his opponent by less than 4 percent, 2,626 to 2,530 votes. The outcome of Tuesday night's vote could put Cashman back on the board.

 

By the time polls closed on election night, voters had routed eight incumbents and elected eight new members.

 

Soon after the election, a county judge granted Cashman his request for a new election between him and Rehm.

 

The special election will be open only to the 817 people who voted in the Nov. 8 polling at the church, which is on Fox Run Road.

 

York County Voter Registrar John Vernon Scott was not available for comment yesterday. Members of his staff said they could not comment on what may have caused the machine to malfunction.

 

The Dover Area School District, with a population of about 20,000 in the borough and two townships, was at the center of an international media circus beginning in October 2004, when the school board approved a policy requiring school officials to read a statement to ninth-grade science classes telling them of intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

 

Dover was the first school district in the country to introduce intelligent design to science classes. The concept holds that life is too complicated to have originated through random natural selection and must have been designed by an intelligent creator.

 

Supporters said it is a legitimate scientific theory.

 

Opponents argued it is merely religious instruction in disguise and a ruse to bypass a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that biblical creationism does not belong in public schools.

 

The board's decision led 11 district parents to file a lawsuit seeking to remove the mention of intelligent design from science classrooms.

 

Last week, U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III issued a ruling siding with the group of parents.

 

T.W. BURGER: 432-8374 or tburger@patriot-news.com

 

The Patriot-News

2005 PennLive.com. All Rights Reserved.

 

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The Patriot-News

 

Dover board members pushed creationism, witnesses testify

 

Friday, September 30, 2005

BY BILL SULON

Of The Patriot-News

 

Dover Area School District board members openly advocated the teaching of creationism in science class before a policy on intelligent design was adopted, two former board members testified in federal court yesterday.

 

The effort began in January 2002, when board member Alan Bonsell cited a need "to bring prayer and faith back into the school," former board member Carol "Casey" Brown said in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg.

 

The board completed the task in October 2004, when it voted to amend the biology curriculum to include a statement on intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution, said lawyers representing 11 parents opposed to the policy change.

 

Brown and her husband, Jeffrey A. Brown, also a former board member, testified that they resigned in protest over the policy, which requires teachers or administrators to read a four-paragraph statement on evolution and intelligent design at the start of ninth-grade biology segments.

 

The parents sued, claiming that the policy violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibiting government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or to single out preference of a religion. District lawyers call the intelligent design statement a "modest policy change" that does not result in less instruction on evolution.

 

The statement calls evolution "just a theory" with inexplicable "gaps" and refers to intelligent design as "an explanation of life that differs from Darwin's view."

 

Proponents of intelligent design say the universe and many living things are so complex that they must have been created by an unspecified intelligent designer.

 

Bonsell and former board member William Buckingham made references to faith, God, Christianity, creationism, prayer and the Bible prior to adoption of the policy, Carol Brown said. She said that when the subject of evolution arose, Bonsell described it as "fiction" and Buckingham called it "atheist propaganda."

 

Bonsell wanted creationism taught "side by side" with evolution, Brown testified.

 

The board "intended to promote religious views, which is unconstitutional in any classroom" in public schools, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Witold Walczak said during a break. The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the district on behalf of the 11 parents opposed to the policy change.

 

One of the district's lawyers, Richard Thompson, said in an interview that any discussion leading up to the policy change is irrelevant as long as the change does not promote religion.

 

"There's nothing wrong with [board members] talking about their religious beliefs," said Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit Christian firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich. "The question at the end of the day is, does it violate the Constitution of the United States?"

 

The answer is yes, according to Richard Katskee, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which joined the ACLU in the lawsuit.

 

Both sides said the case could end up in the Supreme Court. If the district loses its case in Middle District Court, Thompson said the district's odds of success improve with each Supreme Court justice appointment made by President Bush.

 

BILL SULON: 255-8144 or bsulon@patriot-news.com

 

The Patriot-News

2005 PennLive.com. All Rights Reserved.

 

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