the same time, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals upheld a display in a Kentucky courthouse that included
the 10 Commandments. That decision went virtually unnoticed, probably
because it failed to meet the media’s view of the politically
correct outcome. But taken together, the two decisions point to
common ground on the church-state issues at the heart of America’s
case involved an American Civil Liberties Union suit challenging
a display entitled “Foundations of American Law and Government”
that had been erected in the Mercer County courthouse. Unlike
some other displays, the Mercer County display was found to have
a secular, educational purpose. Among the other items in the display
were copies of the Mayflower Compact, the Magna Carta, the Star-Spangled
Banner, the preamble to the state constitution and the Bill of
Rights to the U.S. Constitution.
a Creator, but all are critical to the American founding. “If
the reasonable observer perceived all government references to
the Deity as endorsements,” wrote Richard Suhrheinrich,
the Michigan-based appeals judge who authored the unanimous opinion,
“then many of our Nation’s cherished traditions would
be unconstitutional.” Suhurheinrich went on to castigate
as “tiresome” the argument that the First Amendment
requires a rigid “wall of separation” between state
a far cry from saying government is free to propagate religion,
of course. In Pennsylvania, Federal District Judge John E. Jones
III -- appointed to office by George Bush in 2002 -- ruled that
“intelligent design,” which holds that life is so
complex that it couldn’t have evolved by mere Darwinian
accident, amounts to a form of religion. Who, after all, is the
intelligent designer if not God?
Jones, to teach intelligent design as scientific fact in taxpayer-funded
schools amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Jones’ opinion went a bit overboard, angrily blistering
the “breathtaking inanity” of the Dover, Pa., school
board and accusing intelligent design supporters on the school
board of lying about their motives. But his basic point is likely
to survive appeal.
of intelligent design are, well, intelligent, their money might
be better spent lobbying for science courses that give a better
sense of the vigorous scientific debate among Darwinians themselves
about the unsettled specifics of evolution and “natural
selection.” Ohio did just that in 2004 when it adopted new
guidelines for its science curriculum.
students to the fact that ultimately there may be other explanations
for how we got here. And it places Darwinians in the position
of either taking seriously the essence of science, skepticism
and open debate, or pleading guilty to the sin of dogma themselves.
also are reviewing curriculum requirements. In Michigan, for example,
the state school board has proposed making science, math, English
and foreign language required for graduation. Currently only a
single course in civics is required. Why not add a required course
in American history that includes a unit on its religious heritage?
Respect for the scientific method – which, it’s important
to note, has enemies on the left as well as the right –
is essential. But so is the fact that George Washington couldn’t
envision a successful system of self-government without respect