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Thursday, December 29, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Ex-Lutheran minister sentenced in sex case

Kristen Rasmussen

A former local minister was sentenced Wednesday to nearly three years in state prison, despite his plea that he is not a pedophile and "still has much to give" to the community.

Michael Anthony Harris, 43, stood expressionless as Circuit Judge Nick Geeker sentenced him to two years and 10? months. Harris pleaded no contest last month to third-degree felony charges of attempted lewd or lascivious battery and using a computer to solicit the sexual conduct of a crime. He was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing.

Tears and embraces

More than a dozen friends and family members -- including Harris' wife of 21 years, Christa Harris, and their teenage son -- watched the proceeding. Some cried and embraced each other afterward, but all declined comment.

In a statement to Geeker, Harris -- the former pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pensacola -- said he "accepts full responsibility for (his) actions" and suffered from "clouded judgment" when he arranged in April to meet and engage in sexual acts with a 14-year-old boy who actually was an undercover officer.

"I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am ... for the pain, sorrow and embarrassment this has caused my family, my wife, my son and my congregation," he said.

Harris' attorney, Barry Beroset, described the incident as "aberrant behavior." For many years, Harris has been going through "serious conflict with his sexuality," the defense attorney said.

Several people -- including other pastors, family and former congregation members and local business people -- wrote letters of character reference on his behalf, Beroset said. Many described Harris as a positive member of society and a contributor to his church and community, he said.

'Wonderful provider'

No other instances of inappropriate behavior toward adults or children have ever been reported against Harris, Beroset said.

Christa Harris, a Santa Rosa County teacher who is separated from her husband, described him as a "wonderful provider" who has always been "loving and caring" toward her and their son.

"He's done everything that a good man should do," she said.

But Sgt. Ski Gowitzke -- who directs the Escambia County Sheriff's Office computer crimes unit and who posed as the boy during several online conversations with Harris -- testified that Harris initiated the chat with him.

After inquiring about whether the boy was really 14, Gowitzke said Harris quickly steered their conversation toward the topic of sex.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Durham pastor sentenced to a year for luring children


A Durham pastor has been sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to attempting to lure a child for a sexual liaison.
Kenneth Wayne Symes, 36, of Whitby, will serve just a few more months after being given two for one credit for the four and a half months he's been in custody since his arrest last summer, a source with Durham Regional Police said. Mr. Symes, pastor at the Ajax Alliance Church, will also serve a three-year term of probation.

The married father of a young child was busted in August after a sting operation in which a Toronto police officer posing as a 12-year-old girl had a number of Internet chat room exchanges with a user who called himself "garyneartoronto." After a number of chats that became increasingly more sexual in nature the two made arrangements to meet in Toronto.

When Mr. Symes showed up he was arrested by Toronto police child exploitation unit officers.

Police subsequently searched the man's Whitby home and the church in Ajax.

Mr. Symes was originally charged with one count of attempted luring and invitation to sexual touching. A second luring charge was laid after police here were contacted by authorities in the United States who made similar allegations, the Toronto Star reported.

The invitation to sexual touching charge was dropped when Mr. Symes entered his guilty plea, a police source said.

Ex-pastor faces up to 10 years in prison

Carol Sowers
The Arizona Republic

SCOTTSDALE - A former pastor who once preached against leniency for thieves, could spend up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from parishioners.

Patrick A. Shetler, 49, was indicted on one count of felony theft for allegedly stealing between $25,000 and $100,000 from parishioners of the Glass and Garden Community Church between February 2004 and July 2005.

Shetler, who is not in custody, is scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 501 of the Maricopa County Superior Court, 201 W. Jefferson St.

The sentencing range for a Class 2 felony theft is four to 10 years.

Although the one-page indictment does not detail the alleged thefts, Shelter admitted to Scottsdale police that he stole $20,000 from the church during those 17 months to pay for medical expenses and a second wedding reception.

But church auditors, including parishioner Paul Hurst, say church bank statements show that Shetler wrote himself checks, and used church credit and debit cards to allegedly dip another $21,000 out of church accounts in 2005.

He said Glass and Garden officials sent Scottsdale police bank records dating back to 2002 that put the total loss closer to $89,000.

Hurst said he was surprised that those earlier records were not included in the indictment, but said he is relieved that "we are at least getting somewhere in the case."

Parishioners have waited since Shetler's August arrest for word on whether he would be charged. He was released the next day pending further investigation.

A once popular pastor, Shetler fell out of grace at the church at 86th Street and McDonald Drive after a church secretary in June began getting calls from creditors saying that bills were not being paid.

Records show that Shetler had been using church funds, which come parishioners' pocketbooks, to pay for a $6,000 Disneyland trip and a $1,760 cellphone bill. Hurst said the church agreed to pay Shetler's cellphone bill, but never expected it "to go that high."

Shetler, who was hired at Glass and Garden in 1999, also admitted to police that he gambled occasionally. But he said that was not the source of his financial troubles, including a $174,000 bankruptcy filed in September.

A few months before his August arrest, Shetler, who once ministered to Maricopa County jail inmates, told parishioners that one of the weaknesses of the criminal justice system is leniency for thieves.

Quoting the Bible, he said the penalty "for this is slavery, restitution is to be made."

Monday, December 26, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Texas District Adopts Disputed Text on Bible Study


ODESSA, Tex., - Trustees of the Ector County Independent School District here decided, 4 to 2, that high school students would use a course published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools for studying the Bible in history and literature.

The council is a religious advocacy group in Greensboro, N.C., and has the backing of the Eagle Forum, a conservative organization.

The vote on the disputed textbook, for an elective Bible study course, has not ended the matter. Critics say the book promotes fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

The district superintendent, Wendell Sollis, said Wednesday that he had recommended the textbook over a newer one by the Bible Literacy Project, published this year through the Freedom Forum and an ecumenical group of scholars and endorsed by a group of religious organizations.

"I felt like the National Council was a better fit for Odessa, because they're on several campuses here in Texas and because of their longevity," Mr. Sollis said.

David Newman, a professor of English at Odessa College, said he planned to sue the district because the curriculum advocated a fundamentalist Christian point of view.

The school board president, Randy Rives, said of the curriculum, which uses the King James Version of the Bible: "If you're going to teach something, it's better to use the source. I have complete confidence that we can teach this within the parameters of the law."

Professor Newman said, "If the beliefs of others don't match theirs, then the beliefs of others are irrelevant."

Last summer, the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes religious freedoms, asked a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, Mark A. Chancey, to examine the council course. Dr. Chancey said it had factual errors, promoted creationism and taught that the Constitution was based on Scripture.

A district trustee here, Carol Gregg, said she favored the Bible Literacy Project because it was "more user friendly toward teachers" and "more respectful of minority and majority" religious views.

Unlike the competing curriculum, it mentions several versions of the Bible.

And more:

Critics fear Bible classes erode line between church, state
Publisher: The Dallas Morning News

The hardscrabble town of Odessa on the West Texas oil patch famous for its obsession with high school football is becoming the new ground zero in a culture war.

The Ector County Independent School District unanimously approved an elective course in biblical literacy in April, an action underscoring the marked increase of such "Bible study" classes nationally. Constitutional scholars are concerned that these classes constitute a subtle erosion of what they see as the traditional and necessary wall of separation between church and state.

More than 300 school districts in 35 states use course material offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, said its president, Elizabeth Ridenour.

The North Carolina-based organization offers courses in biblical study in public schools as part of its commitment to restore religious and civil liberties in the nation. The council's board of directors and advisers draws heavily on such religious conservatives as evangelist Ben Kinchloe of television's "The 700 Club" and David Barton, a prominent conservative author and speaker on church-state separation.

"The world is watching to see if we will be motivated to impact our culture, to deal with the moral crises in our society, and reclaim our families and children," Ridenour wrote in a welcoming message on the organization's Web site.

Odessa school officials say they are walking a narrow path to ensure the proposed course meets educational and constitutional requirements.

"This will be an academic elective on biblical literacy, not a devotional," said Odessa Superintendent Wendell Sollis. "We have no intention of proselytizing. ... You really have to educate people about what you can and can't do."

But assurances that the course will be voluntary and non-devotional have done little to allay the fears of non-Christians and religious moderates that the class may evolve into the covert preaching of God's word.

"There's an awful lot of people in this town convinced that they're going to get Jesus taught in the classroom, a tool for evangelism. And that concerns people like me," said David Newman, an English professor at Odessa College who opposes the new Bible course. He is Jewish.

"If they want to teach the biblical influences on culture and art, why not make it a traditional humanities course that examines all the influences on Western culture?" he asked. "If I see this thing becoming more of an advocacy course, I can assure you there will certainly be legal action taken."

While relations between Odessa's 150 Christian churches and its non-Christian minority are good, Newman said his 12-year-old daughter has been subjected to some anti-Jewish statements from classmates.

"They'll ask her why 'your people' killed Jesus. Or if she knows that Jesus is her savior," Newman said. "I don't think it's hate. It's just kids being kids. But I worry what will happen if a pronounced Christian viewpoint is taught in the class."

Alfred Brophy, a University of Alabama law professor who teaches American legal history, said Odessa may reflect a new battleground for religious conservatives who complain God has been taken out of the nation's public schools.

"This is ground zero in the next culture war," Brophy said. "They're introducing a religious curriculum into the schoolhouse, but it's subtle. It's the camel's nose poking under the tent."

John Waggoner began organizing a petition drive in Odessa this year to develop a high school Bible course. He said he was not prepared for the results. By April, his group had obtained more than 6,000 signatures.

Waggoner said he and two friends began the drive out of a grass-roots interest in bringing legal Bible study to the classroom. Once they went public, they were supported by a cross-section of the community. "We just tapped into something people are very passionate about," he said.

"I don't mean to be flippant, but when people ask why we want a Bible course in the schools, I ask, 'Why not?'" Waggoner said. "The Bible is such a foundation of all that we have in this country, it just makes sense to educate our children about it."

But Waggoner is aware of the opposition to the class.

"Sure, we understand their concerns. We know these are good people who just disagree with what we're doing. I just think they're wrong," he said. "This will be the most heavily moderated course in the school's history. There will be no proselytizing. We don't want to subject this school district to a constitutional conflict.

Though no course curriculum has been picked, Waggoner said his group favors the curriculum designed by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

"We invited the council's lawyer to speak to the school board on the constitutionality of the issue, and we know the council's curriculum has already been approved in Texas," he said. "Our hope is that ... we'll continue to have a seat at the table as the board picks a curriculum."

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh told his radio listeners he'd stand with Odessa schools against the American Civil Liberties Union _ even though the ACLU hasn't joined the fray. School officials have been swamped with interview requests and hundreds of phone calls and e-mails _ some accusing them of violating the Constitution and others thanking them for putting the Bible back in the classroom.

The district last offered a Bible class in 1979.

Roughly 80 percent of the schools using the national council's Bible course are small or rural districts, according to Ridenour, the group's president.

"It's not just gone into the Bible Belt states. It's gone into Alaska, Pennsylvania, California," Ridenour said. "We've already had over 170,000 students take the course nationwide. It's never been legally challenged."

Ridenour stressed that the curriculum is designed to help students understand the Bible in the context of its influence on culture and the arts. She emphasized it is not a course in Bible devotion.

"You wouldn't learn this in Sunday school class," she said. "How in the world could you understand what's going on in the Middle East today without introducing the Bible and understanding the background? How can they understand Michelangelo's Moses or Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper without knowing about the figures that inspired those works of art?"

Ridenour said supporters of non-Christian faiths could approach a school board and go through the same process as the council.

"Now the Quran has not had the influence on our society, of course, that the Bible has and our founding fathers didn't base things on the Quran," she said. "But it's a free country if anyone would like to approach the school board."

Judith Schaeffer, deputy legal director of the People for the American Way Foundation, said her group plans to monitor the case to see if the curriculum Odessa adopts is constitutional.

"We have no problem with the board's vote the other night," she said. "It puts it on our radar screen in the sense that we hope they will do this the right way."

Schaeffer said her organization is aware that the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is "running around the country trying to get school boards to adopt their material for these courses."

Ridenour said her organization does not solicit school districts to carry their curriculum. "If people in the district, if it's on their hearts to do this, they'll call us."

The curriculum has not been challenged in court.

Schaeffer said another potential problem for school districts is finding instructors that are "academically competent" to teach what is often a lightning-rod topic.

"You really shouldn't be teaching the Bible in public schools," she said, "unless you have teachers who are qualified to do so."

Earlier this year, schools in Michigan decided not to use the council's Bible curriculum.

In January, the school board in Frankenmuth, Mich., ended a yearlong debate by turning down the council curriculum as "not academically rigorous enough." Frankenmuth Superintendent Michael Murphy told board members, "It goes beyond talking about religion and becomes faith-based."

K.K. Brannies, assistant superintendent of the Brady Independent School District in Texas, said her district has offered the council curriculum since the late 1990s as an elective and has had no complaints.

She is surprised that the course is offered in 49 districts in Texas and that more are considering it because the opportunity to offer electives is dwindling as course requirements increase.

However, she said she does not see the course "as something that will really continue heavily just because of the fact there are so few opportunities for any elective classes," Brannies said. "When we get to the new science requirements, the chances of us having to do away with it are probably good at some point just because kids won't have room for as many electives in their schedule."

Kathy Miller, President of the Texas Freedom Network, a statewide nonprofit group formed to protect religious freedom and individual liberties, said there is no inherent problem with studying religion in school.

She cautioned, however, that schools may unintentionally end up promoting a particular religion in the classroom and violate the principles of religious freedom.

"I think the danger here is that this Bible class could turn a public school classroom into a Sunday school classroom," Miller said. "Many school boards have rejected the curriculum because they feared the controversy around it, because they feared that it did possibly put them in an untenable position."

The test of a Bible literacy course in Odessa, however, lies with the kids.

Angie, 17, a senior at Permian High School, won't benefit from the proposed Bible course. But she would take it if she could. "I don't think it would hurt anyone to study about God's word," she said.

Across the parking lot, Ray, a junior, is noncommittal. "It's OK, I guess. But there's already a lot we have to get done for graduation; there's not much room for electives. It's like we'd have to choose between football, more science or the Bible."

Their last names were not used because neither student would give a contact number for their parents.

Nearby, Patricia Clark waited outside Permian High to pick up her daughter, Natasha, 16. Clark supports the idea of a Bible class.

"It'll be a good thing, something positive," Clark said. "I'm glad to see it happen."

Her daughter has another view.

"She hasn't said she'd be interested in taking it," Clark said. "We've talked about it, and she just rolls her eyes."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Wife Of Pastor At Largest U.S. Church Asked To Leave Plane


Church Members Stand Behind Osteens

The FBI said the pastor of the nation's largest church and his family were kicked off a Continental Airlines flight to Colorado earlier this week.

The Rev. Joel Osteen of Houston's Lakewood Church, his wife, Victoria, and their two children had boarded a flight from Houston to Vail on Monday.

The plane's door had been closed when Victoria Osteen and a flight attendant had a disagreement.

"She failed to comply with the flight attendant's instructions and they were asked to leave the flight," FBI spokeswoman Luz Garcia said.

Garcia added that the flight was delayed for more than an hour while the Osteens' luggage was retrieved, but no charges will be filed.

The church released the following statement.

"The misunderstanding was minor and was resolved when Victoria voluntarily removed herself from the situation. The family was unhappy with the way things were going on the plane, and Victoria commends the airline for the efficient and gracious manner in which they handled the situation."

The Osteens took another flight to Colorado, where the family is skiing, a church spokesman said.

Lakewood Church members said there is no way that Victoria Osteen would have caused a scene with a flight attendant, reported KPRC-TV in Houston.

"We wouldn't be in a church with pastors that were mean or cruel in any way, and we've been here long enough to know them well," church member Shirley Kelly said.

"I know Victoria and I know Joel since he was a little boy. He's a great man. She's a great woman. And I stand with them, no matter what they say, because I love them dearly," church member Daniel Kelly said.

Did Jesus really say that?


Bart Ehrman, head of the religious studies department at UNC Chapel Hill, has written a new book, "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why."

Reading Life editor Jeri Krentz talked to him about the book's premise -- that ancient scribes changed the Bible and distorted Jesus -- and what it means to Christians. The interview was edited for clarity and length.

Q. You start your book with a story about your journey in understanding the Bible. It sounds as if you had an epiphany at Princeton Theological Seminary when your professor suggested that "... maybe (the gospel writer) Mark made a mistake."

The more I studied the Bible, the more I realized there were discrepancies in it. My faith -- based on the inspired words of the Bible -- came under assault. That was especially true when I realized that in many cases, we don't have the original words.

Q. If we don't have the original texts of the New Testament -- or even copies of the copies of the copies of the originals -- what do we have?

We have copies that were made hundreds of years later -- in most cases, many hundreds of years later. And these copies are all different from one another.

Q. These changes to the manuscripts: Will you tell us why they may have happened?
There are two main reasons. Scribes sometimes just made mistakes because they were sleepy or incompetent or they weren't paying attention.

But there are also places where it looks like scribes intentionally altered the text because they didn't like what it said or they thought it could be worded better.

Q. Tell us about some of the changes.

One of the most famous is the story of the woman taken in adultery in John, Chapter
8. It's the favorite story of everybody who does the Jesus movie in Hollywood and probably one of the best love stories of the New Testament. But it originally wasn't in the Gospel of John and it wasn't in the Bible at all. It was added by later scribes.

Q. What else?

There's only one verse in the New Testament that explicitly states the doctrine of the trinity (that there are three persons in the godhead, but that the three all constitute just one God).

It's 1 John 5:7-8. You'll find the verses in the King James Bible, and they've always been used as an explicit statement of the doctrine of the trinity. But those verses aren't found in any of the Greek manuscripts down to the 14th century.
And in the Last Supper...Jesus says, "This is my body which has been given for you; do this in remembrance of me." And he gives the cup and says, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you."

But those verses are missing from some of the oldest and best manuscripts of Luke's Gospel. Without those verses, Luke nowhere else talks about Jesus' death as being an atonement, a sacrifice for the sake of others.

It also turns out that the account in Luke about Jesus sweating blood as he prays in the garden is missing from our oldest and best manuscripts.

I think scribes added that because there were debates in the second and third centuries as to whether Jesus was fully human or not. These verses were inserted to show he really was human and really did suffer.

Q. So you say, "It's a bit hard to know what the words of the Bible mean if we don't even know what the words are."

That's right.

Q. What translation of the Bible do you recommend?

The New Revised Standard Version.

I'm a bit prejudiced: When I finished my Ph.D., I worked as the research grunt for the committee that produced it. But the reason I like it is it doesn't have any particular theological bias.

Q. What do you tell Christians who believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God?

Even people who say the words are inerrant need to realize ... they're reading English translations and something always gets lost in translation. And the translations ... are translations of Greek words, some of which may not be originals.

So my personal opinion is that it's very hard to have the view of the Bible's inerrancy once you know the facts about the history of the Bible.

When I talk about the hundreds and thousands of differences, it's true that a lot are insignificant. But it's also true that a lot are highly significant for interpreting the Bible. Depending on which manuscript you read, the meaning is changed significantly.

Q. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope they come to realize that the Bible, even though it may be the most important religious and cultural set of books that we have, is still a very human set of books. The differences that we find among our manuscripts show just how human the book is.

The Bible has a wide range of points of view. I'm hoping it shows that the earliest Christians were diverse and they weren't all saying the same thing.
That's important to me because I think Christians today need to be more tolerant of difference. People with different points of view have always been a part of Christianity.

Bart Ehrman
• Grew up in Kansas.
• Attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Wheaton College and Princeton Theological Seminary.
• Has taught at UNC Chapel Hill since 1988.
• His books include "Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew" and "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine."

Excerpt from `Misquoting Jesus'

From "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why", by Bart D. Ehrman.

"My study of the Greek New Testament, and my investigations into the manuscripts that contain it, led to a radical rethinking of my understanding of what the Bible is.

This was a seismic change for me. Before this -- starting with my born-again experience in high school, through my fundamentalist days at Moody (Bible Institute in Chicago), and on through my evangelical days at Wheaton (College) -- my faith had been based completely on a certain view of the bible as the fully inspired, inerrant word of God.

Now I no longer saw the Bible that way. The Bible began to appear to me as a very human book. Just as human scribes had copied, and changed, the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts of scripture. This was a human book from beginning to end. It was written by different human authors at different times and in different places to address different needs. Many of these authors no doubt felt they were inspired by God to say what they did, but they had their own perspectives, their own beliefs, their own views, their own needs, their own desires, their own understanding, their own theologies...

Among other things, this meant that Mark did not say the same thing that Luke said because he didn't mean the same thing as Luke. John is different from Matthew.... Paul is different from Acts. And James is different from Paul....

(This book) is written for people who know nothing about textual criticism but who might like to learn something about how scribes were changing scripture and about how we can recognize where they did so. It is written based on my thirty years of thinking about the subject, and from the perspective that I now have, having gone through such radical transformations of my own views of the Bible.

In many ways, then, this is a very personal book for me, the end result of a long journey. Maybe, for others, it can be part of a journey of their own."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Kitzmiller et al versus Dover Area School District

a report by Burt Humburg & Ed Brayton

On November 4, 2005, after 40 days and nights of testimony, the first evolution-Intelligent Design trial of the 21st century drew to a close in Federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While evolution trials in the 20th century had focused more on traditional creationism, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District pit the teaching of evolution against a more legally sophisticated challenger, Intelligent Design (ID).

This morning, December 20, 2005, Judge John Jones III handed down his ruling against the teaching of Intelligent Design:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions.

Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

John E. Jones III
United States District Judge

This is a stunning blow against Intelligent Design and creationism, but we are not surprised by it given how the trial unfolded. The first handicap that ID advocates had to deal with was the zeal of the law firm representing them. The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), founded by conservative Catholic businessman Tom Monaghan and former Kevorkian prosecutor Richard Thompson, was itching for a fight with the ACLU from the time of its formation in 1999. Declaring themselves the “sword and shield for people of faith” and the “Christian Answer to the ACLU,” TMLC sought out confrontations with the ACLU on a number of fronts, from public nativity and Ten Commandment displays to gay marriage and pornography. But the fight they really wanted, it seems, was over evolution in public school science classrooms, a fight that would take five years to occur.

TMLC representatives traveled the country from at least early 2000, encouraging school boards to teach ID in science classrooms. From Virginia to Minnesota, TMLC recommended the textbook Of Pandas and People (Pandas) as a supplement to regular biology textbooks, promising to defend the schools free of charge when the ACLU filed the inevitable lawsuit. Finally, in summer 2004, they found a willing school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, a board known to have been searching for a way to get creationism inserted into its science classrooms for years.

On October 18, 2004, the Dover school board voted 6-3 to add the following statement to their biology curriculum:

“Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is not taught.”

A month later, they added a statement to be read to all ninth grade biology classes. That statement referred again to “gaps” in the theory of evolution and to “intelligent design” as an alternative. It also pointed students to copies of Pandas available in the 9th grade science classrooms. The ACLU filed suit on December 14, 2004 on behalf of 11 parents from the Dover school district. The battle was joined, and the Kitzmiller case promised to provide TMLC the showdown it craved.

The ACLU was joined by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), a frequent ally in such cases, and by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who operated as a pro bono consultant in the case. NCSE has been battling efforts to attack evolution for several decades and their expertise and experience provided many of the key arguments and lines of evidence used in the case.

The first step was to find a law firm who could handle the case and take the risk of not being paid. Most large ACLU cases are handled with assistance from major law firms who do the work pro bono. If the suit is filed against a government agency, they can typically expect to have their legal fees covered by that agency if they win the case; if they lose, they have to suffer the costs incurred. The parents represented would have to pay nothing. NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott put out the word to that group’s legal advisory council that they needed to find a law firm to take the Kitzmiller case; within a few short hours, the call was answered.

Eric Rothschild, one of the partners of the Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton LLP and a member of the NCSE legal advisory council, enthusiastically offered to take the case, telling Scott, “I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years.” Most major firms do pro bono work, but that work is typically reserved for younger associates without a large and established client list as a good way to get them experience, boost the image of the firm for the charity work, and provide a healthy tax write-off. But Pepper Hamilton would assign five attorneys to Kitzmiller, three of them partners. Rothschild himself took on the role of chief counsel. Add in Witold Walczak and Pamela Knudsen of the Pennsylvania ACLU, and Richard Katskee and Alex Luchenitser from AU, and there is no doubt the plaintiffs had established a formidable legal team.

With the two sides now in place, the hard work began. Expert witnesses had to be named, subpoenas issued, depositions taken, and the discovery phase had to begin in earnest. For the plaintiffs, the legal strategy was clear. They would follow the same basic strategy the ACLU had followed in the landmark McLean v Arkansas case in 1981, a case involving a demand for equal time for “creation science” in science classrooms in that state. In McLean, they called many expert witnesses to establish that creation science was not a genuine scientific theory but rather an inherently religious idea being dressed up in scientific-sounding language.

McLean, like Kitzmiller, was a Federal district court case. Because McLean was not appealed by the state of Arkansas, it never became a wider precedent, though the influence of this case should not be understated. McLean has been widely cited in cases around the country and it formed the basis for the 1987 Edwards v Aguillard ruling, another equal time case involving creation science that made it to the Supreme Court. In Edwards, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that creation science was inherently religious and therefore could not be taught in public school science classrooms. (See Michael Shermer’s history of this case in Why People Believe Weird Things.)

As we’ll see, in addition to providing the roadmap for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller, McLean and Edwards also prompted the change in terminology from “creation science” or “creationism” to “intelligent design” on the part of the anti-evolution movement, a key point in the plaintiff’s case in Kitzmiller. In other words, the strategy would be to tie ID to creation science: if it could be established that ID is substantially the same as creation science, application of the Edwards ruling as binding precedent becomes straightforward. Thus, the plaintiffs would need to show that ID is not a genuine scientific theory but rather, to quote Leonard Krishtalka, “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”

Like McLean, the ACLU wanted an all-star team of experts for Kitzmiller and they quickly assembled one. That team included Ken Miller, a Brown University molecular biologist who authored the primary textbook that Dover used in their biology classes; Robert Pennock, philosopher of science from Michigan State University who had written voluminously about ID; Barbara Forrest, philosopher from Southeastern Louisiana University and co-author with Paul Gross of Creationism’s Trojan Horse, an encyclopedic history of the ID movement; John Haught, Georgetown theologian who has written on the compatibility between evolution and Christianity; Brian Alters, McGill education professor who works on how to improve teaching evolution in the public schools; and Kevin Padian, a U.C. Berkeley paleontologist and evolution education expert.

One task of these experts was to make the link between creationism and ID. The lead author of Pandas, Dean Kenyon, had authored the foreword to What Is Creation Science? by Henry Morris and Gary Parker. The second author, Percival Davis, had coauthored A Case for Creation with fellow young earth creationist (YEC) Wayne Frair. Discovery Institute fellows Paul Nelson and Nancy Pearcey are both YECs. In fact, Pearcey was the long-time research editor of the Bible Science Newsletter, in which she had published long tracts from Pandas. Clearly, then, there was enough in common between ID and creation science that the materials and ideas were congruent enough to be exchanged. But would this be enough to convince the judge that the two are essentially the same? How could this link be most clearly demonstrated? The answer, it turns out, was to be found within Pandas itself.

Pandas was published in 1989, and it has been hailed by ID advocates as “the first intelligent design textbook” and “one of the milestones” of the early ID movement. In NCSE’s enormous archive was a file of correspondence concerning this book, including a cache of seemingly random things people had sent them over the years. Jessica Moran, the NCSE archivist, reviewed this file and found a 1987 prospectus for an early version of this book, then to be called Biology and Origins, that had been sent by the owners of the book, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), to the publishing company Bartlett and Jones encouraging them to publish the book. That document referred explicitly to “creation,” not “intelligent design.” They also had numerous fundraising letters that had been sent out by FTE referring to this book as supporting “creation.” She gave these documents to Nick Matzke, NCSE’s point man working directly with the attorneys, and the search was on for more.

Matzke began to speculate that perhaps there might be language in the earlier version of Pandas that used creation science terminology rather than the more legally sophisticated terminology favored by ID advocates today. In an email to the Pepper Hamilton attorneys, Matzke wrote, “I am reasonably sure that the word ‘creation’ would be substituted for ‘design’ or ‘intelligent design’ at many points within that manuscript. This would prove our point in many ways. We have a couple written sources indicating that picking the words ‘intelligent design’ was one of the very last things that Charles Thaxton did during the development of Pandas.” Thaxton was the academic editor of Pandas. But did that manuscript still exist? If indeed it did refer to creationism or creation science rather than to intelligent design, one would think that the FTE would have destroyed it long ago. The attorneys decided to take a shot and subpoena any early drafts of the book that FTE might have. This turned out to be a key turning point in the case.

In the early part of July, the attorneys received the documents that FTE produced in response to that subpoena. They could not possibly have imagined in advance the bounty they would find in that batch of documents. It turns out that there was not one early draft of Pandas but several, and they had kept copies of all of them. The first was called Creation Biology (1983), followed by Biology and Creation (1986), Biology and Origins (early 1987), and two drafts with the final title Of Pandas and People, both from 1987. The final version was published in 1989, with a revised edition released in 1993. Not only did the early drafts use various cognates of clearly creationist language — creation science, creation, creationist, etc. — rather than “intelligent design,” they also used the very same definitions for both, with only the change in the word being defined.

In Biology and Creation (1986), the definition for the term “creation” was:

“Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

The same definition appears in Biology and Origins (1987). In the first draft from 1987, the one using the final title Of Pandas and People, this definition is repeated verbatim. But in the later draft with this title from 1987, written after the Supreme Court’s Edwards decision had ruled creation science out of public school science classrooms, suddenly there was a change in terminology. Now it read:

“Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc.”

This was truly a “Eureka!” moment for the plaintiff’s team. Here was undeniable proof that Pandas had begun as a creationist textbook and, after the Edwards ruling ruled creationism out of schools, the creationists simply changed their terminology, replacing “creation” with “intelligent design” and giving both terms an identical definition. This provided substantial evidence that intelligent design was simply creationism retrofitted to adapt to modern court rulings and would bode well for the plaintiffs’ case.

Meanwhile, preparations by the defense team from the TMLC weren’t going so well. Infighting quickly developed between the TMLC and the Discovery Institute (DI), the main ID group that was providing most of the expert witnesses. The DI was in a bind from the start. Generally concerned with the national ID effort, they knew that this could be the test case that decided once and for all whether ID was just warmed over creationism and that the Dover school board had left behind many clues to the religious intent behind their policy. The TMLC, on the other hand, was gung ho to defend the Dover policy itself, possibly due to their encouragement of the board’s efforts over the preceding years, and not merely the scientific nature of ID or the overall ID public relations movement.

This infighting culminated in the withdrawal of three key DI fellows as defense experts — William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Angus Campbell — prior to their depositions. Though there were some conflicting reports on the specifics, both TMLC and the DI agreed that the withdrawal took place because TMLC refused to allow the witnesses to have their own attorney present during depositions. Two other DI fellows, Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, having already been deposed, were unaffected by the dispute and went on to testify at the trial.

But the withdrawal of Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell only deepened the rift between TMLC and the DI. That rift came to a very public head at an American Enterprise Institute forum on ID on October 21st in Washington DC, while the trial was still going on in Pennsylvania. At that forum, TMLC director Richard Thompson publicly accused the DI of “victimizing” the Dover school board and of undermining their case “because we could not present the expert testimony we thought we could present.” He further said that the DI didn’t want Behe or Minnich to testify either, but that they agreed to do so nonetheless. All in all, preparations for the case were going brilliantly for the plaintiffs and very badly for the defense. And things would only get worse for them.

After a long spring and summer of expert reports, depositions, investigation, and various pre-trial motions back and forth (including an unsuccessful attempt by TMLC to get the case dismissed), the trial finally got underway on September 26th in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with Judge Jones, a 2002 Bush appointee, presiding. The plaintiffs would present their case first, then the defense. It wouldn’t take long for things to heat up in the courtroom.

In his opening statement, Eric Rothschild wasted no time revealing the central argument of the plaintiff’s case, tying ID directly to the “creation science” that was ruled out of public school science classrooms in Edwards. “What we will prove at this trial,” he said, “is that the Dover board policy has the same characteristics and the same constitutional defects as the creation science policy struck down in Edwards.” To do this, the plaintiffs had to establish two different lines of evidence, one from expert witnesses who would show that ID is conceptually similar to creation science and one from fact witnesses in the Dover community, who would show that the process of adopting the policy indicated the clear intent to endorse or support a religious viewpoint.

The fact witnesses would include former members of the Dover school board, local residents who attended the board meetings where the ID policy was discussed and ratified, and teachers who participated in the behind-the-scenes discussions with the administration and the school board. Aralene “Barrie” Callahan, a Dover school board member at the time the ID policy was adopted, and Bryan Rehm, a former physics teacher at Dover High School would testify that prior to the adoption of the ID policy, members of the school board had spoken openly of wanting to balance the teaching of evolution with material advocating “creationism.” This testimony helped tie the school board’s actions to the actions struck down in Edwards.

Mrs. Callahan testified, and showed her handwritten notes from key school board meetings and board retreats in 2003 and 2004, that school board President Alan Bonsell and chair of the curriculum committee William Buckingham had repeatedly spoken in favor of creationism explicitly, something both men denied. Likewise, Mr. Rehm testified that at a meeting of the science teachers in the 2003–2004 school year, Bonsell had made clear that he objected to the teaching of evolution by itself and wanted the teachers to balance it with creationism. He also testified that the teachers were unified at that meeting in telling the board that they would not support a dual model approach.

These statements from school board members about creationism, however, were not established merely by the memory of those who attended the meetings; there was also actual videotape of William Buckingham, using such language. A week after the June 14, 2004 school board meeting, in an interview with a local Fox station, Buckingham said, “My opinion, it’s OK to teach Darwin, but you have to balance it with something else such as creationism.” There was also evidence from the local newspapers, both of which reported after the June 14 board meeting that Buckingham had argued that it was necessary to balance the teaching of evolution with creationism because, “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?” Such statements were obviously quite inconvenient for the defense, which was trying to establish that there was no religious intent behind the policy. But with multiple witnesses all recalling the statement, plus the documentation in both local newspapers the day after the meeting, there was little they could do to thwart such testimony.

As powerful as the fact witnesses were, it was the testimony of the experts that would be the key to the plaintiffs’ strategy and to the larger efforts to exclude ID from public school science classrooms. The testimony of plaintiffs’ expert Forrest would become the first major flashpoint of the trial because it was her testimony more than anyone else’s that would link creationism and ID.

From the moment Dr. Forrest took the stand on October 5th, it was obvious that it was her testimony that the defense feared the most, because they engaged in a protracted and emphatic fight to have her qualifications as an expert denied so she could not testify. That fight would last the entire morning of the 5th before the Judge admitted her as an expert and her real testimony began.

Once she was accepted as an expert by the court and her direct testimony began, it became apparent why the defense tried so hard to keep her off the stand. She would present two different lines of evidence, one about the broader ID movement and one about Pandas itself. Regarding the broader movement, Forrest would present statements from the leading lights of ID that spoke bluntly of the religious nature of their ideas. She would quote the Wedge Document, a strategic plan written by the DI in 1996, making explicit that the goal of intelligent design was “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” She would also quote ID advocate William Dembski’s statement that, “Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” She testified that such language was not unusual, despite the protests of many ID advocates that their theory is not religious but purely scientific. She would testify that many of the arguments and concepts common to ID writings were substantively identical to arguments made by earlier advocates of creationism.

In addition, Dr. Forrest would testify regarding the evidence that was found in the earlier drafts of Pandas acquired from the FTE during discovery. She testified about the definitions mentioned earlier, establishing that the authors of the book considered “creation” and “intelligent design” equal enough to substitute. She also testified about the results of systematic word count studies of the various drafts of the book from 1983 through the second edition of the book in 1993. Those studies showed that the phrase “intelligent design” was not used at all in the 1983 version, and used very few times in the 1986 and early 1987 versions of the book, while various cognates of creation (creationism, creation science, etc.) were used throughout those books. That same study also showed how, following the 1987 Edwards decision, the use of “creation” words or phrases drops to virtually none while the use of “intelligent design” phrases became extensively used.

Forrest also testified about documents written by the editors of Pandas marketing the book to publishing companies as a creationist textbook and showing that the editors were aware of the potential of the Edwards decision to alter the market for the book. With these lines of evidence established in the court record, along with the testimony from the other plaintiff’s experts, it was difficult to deny that ID was, to use a Biblical metaphor, old wine in new skin.

It was clear that the defense had their work cut out for them to undercut this powerful testimony. It was also clear, as the defense began presenting its experts, how much the withdrawal of Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell had hurt the TMLC’s ability to mount a strong defense. They began with Michael Behe, a biochemist from Lehigh University and the author of Darwin’s Black Box. His testimony would continue for the better part of three days as the defense tried to establish the scientific credibility of ID. Unfortunately for the defense, it would also provide fertile ground for the plaintiffs to undermine that credibility.

On the stand, Behe tried to establish that his book had been subjected to peer review, one of the bedrock processes of vetting the credibility of scientific writings. He testified that his book had undergone even more thorough review than a normal journal article would have because of the controversial nature of the subject. He specifically named Dr. Michael Atchison of the University of Pennsylvania as one of the book’s reviewers. But NCSE’s Matzke remembered an article written by Atchison in which he stated that he had not reviewed the book at all but had only held a ten minute phone conversation with the book’s editor over the general content. When the plaintiffs’ attorney introduced this article during cross-examination, it was clearly a blow to Behe’s claim that his book had “received much more scrutiny and much more review before publication than the great majority of scientific journal articles.”

The cross examination of Behe also undermined the credibility of his testimony in several other ways. One of Behe’s central claims has been that there is no serious scientific work or progress on how complex biochemical systems like the flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system could have evolved, and he testified as much. Plaintiffs’ attorneys, in a Perry Mason-like flourish, pointedly dropped dozens of peer-reviewed books and journal articles about the evolution of such systems in front of him; Behe admitted that he had read virtually none of them. They also questioned him about a paper he had written in 2004, widely regarded by creationists as a peer-reviewed pro-ID paper. That cross examination established that, despite the fact that he and his co-author had essentially rigged the parameters of the simulation to make evolution as unlikely as possible, biochemical systems requiring multiple unselected mutations — the very type of system he claims could not have evolved in a stepwise fashion — could evolve in a relatively short period of time.

In the face of multiple witnesses, newspaper reports and even videotaped evidence, William Buckingham had a difficult time explaining his denials during deposition that he had never said anything about creationism. Both he and Alan Bonsell had been asked in depositions about where the money had come from to purchase the dozens of copies of the Pandas book; both testified that they didn’t know where the money had come from, but that it was not taxpayer money. But under cross examination, it was revealed that Buckingham had raised the money at his church, wrote a check out of his own account for $850 and gave it to Bonsell, who then gave it to his father to purchase the books. This inconsistency angered the judge so much that he interrupted the attorneys and began to question Bonsell himself, demanding an explanation for why he had not mentioned this when asked directly about it. The judge was usually jovial and often joked in court, which made his anger all the more noticeable and gave rise to speculation that he might well charge the two school board members of perjuring themselves; at the very least, it was clear that he did not view them as credible witnesses.

Eventually, the attorneys would make closing statements and summarize their cases. Judge Jones, in a gesture of class, complimented the attorneys for their advocacy, stating “Every single one of you made me aware of why I became a lawyer and why I became a judge.”

Kitzmiller provides an excellent case study of evolution in action; ironically, in this case how the language of creationists has adapted to changing cultural environments. The defense argued that Intelligent Design is an entirely new species unrelated to creation science, and the plaintiffs expertly demonstrated both the clear ancestral relationship between creationism and ID and the selective pressure of higher court decisions that caused the speciation. With that phylogenetic relationship clearly established in the trial, the judge evidently decided that creationism had not mutated enough to survive as the new species of Intelligent Design.


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Court rejects 'intelligent design' in science class


"Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.

Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote.

The board's attorneys had said members were seeking to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin's theory that evolution develops through natural selection. Intelligent-design proponents argue that the theory cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.

The plaintiffs challenging the policy argued intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools. The judge agreed.

"We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom," he wrote in his 139-page opinion.

The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps." It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information.

Jones wrote that he wasn't saying the intelligent design concept shouldn't be studied and discussed, saying its advocates "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors."

But, he wrote, "our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."

The controversy divided the community and galvanized voters to oust eight incumbent school board members who supported the policy in the November 8 school board election.

Said the judge: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

The board members were replaced by a slate of eight opponents who pledged to remove intelligent design from the science curriculum.

Eric Rothschild, the lead attorney for the families who challenged the policy, called the ruling "a real vindication for the parents who had the courage to stand up and say there was something wrong in their school district."

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which represented the school board, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The dispute is the latest chapter in a long-running debate over the teaching of evolution dating back to the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade teaching evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed his conviction on a technicality, and the law was repealed in 1967.

Jones heard arguments in the fall during a six-week trial in which expert witnesses for each side debated intelligent design's scientific merits. Other witnesses, including current and former school board members, disagreed over whether creationism was discussed in board meetings months before the curriculum change was adopted.

The case is among at least a handful that have focused new attention on the teaching of evolution in the nation's schools.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Georgia heard arguments over whether evolution disclaimer stickers placed in a school system's biology textbooks were unconstitutional. A federal judge in January ordered Cobb County school officials, in suburban Atlanta, to immediately remove the stickers, which called evolution a theory, not a fact.

In November, state education officials in Kansas adopted new classroom science standards that call the theory of evolution into question.

Text of the school's statement
Text of the statement on "intelligent design" that Dover Area High School administrators have been reading to students at the start of biology lessons on evolution:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, "Of Pandas and People," is available in the library along with other resources for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

Monday, December 19, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor is charged with sexually abusing teenager


He is the second leader at Redemption Christian Fellowship in Woodlawn to be charged in a month

By Nick Shields

For the second time in a month, a leader at a church in the Woodlawn area of Baltimore County has been charged with sexually abusing a teenager.
Gary Warren Warfield, described in court records as a deacon at Redemption Christian Fellowship, has been charged with sexually abusing a 17-year-old boy at the church. Last month, Gerald Fitroy Griffith, a pastor at the church, was charged with sexually abusing that boy and two other teenagers during counseling sessions.

An attorney for Warfield said yesterday that Warfield denies the allegations. A lawyer who represents Griffith said that many in the congregation stand behind the pastor.

According to charging documents filed Wednesday in District Court, a 17-year-old boy told a social worker last month that Warfield, 44, of the first block of Fallridge Court in Gwynn Oak, touched him improperly starting when he was 14. The boy said the last incident occurred in September, according to the court records. He said that he told Warfield to stop and that Warfield replied, "It's not like that. I'm just showing you my love," court papers say.

The boy told the social worker that the incidents happened at the nondenominational Redemption Christian Fellowship, in the 6500 block of Dogwood Road, and in a church van on the way to a store, according to the documents.

Warfield is charged with sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense. In an interview with police Dec. 6., Warfield, with an attorney present, denied touching the boy inappropriately, charging documents show.

"He adamantly denies that he ever did anything that in any way was inappropriate to any member of the church community," said Joe Murtha, an attorney representing Warfield. "He denies the allegations and will stay committed to the community of the church."

Griffith was charged last month with multiple counts of child abuse and sexual abuse of a minor and with several other sex offenses.

A teenage former parishioner told police that Griffith told her he would be her father figure because she did not have one, court records show. The girl said that Griffith, while providing counseling in his office this year, touched her sexually and told her that they should be closer, the charging document states. He is charged with sexually abusing the girl and with sexually abusing two teenage boys.

Griffith, 39, of Bowie, who has traveled internationally with his ministry, was arrested Nov. 15 while waiting to board a previously booked flight to London at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

David B. Irwin, an attorney representing Griffith, said the congregation raised the money for Griffith's release on $600,000 bond to ensure that he could continue to preach as the abuse case works its way through the court system.

"There are a lot of parishioners who think he is the real deal," Irwin said yesterday. "There are a lot of people who are standing behind him and standing with him and who believe in him."

A Web site for Gerald Griffith Ministries referred to Griffith as "a modern-day apostle, called of God for these end times" and says that he has held "crusades" in Chicago, Canada, Nigeria, the West Indies, London and elsewhere. He is described on the Web site as senior pastor at Redemption Christian Fellowship.

Church officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. Warfield was released Wednesday after posting $50,000 bail, his attorney said.

Friday, December 16, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Does Religion Cause Immorality?

Original Article

By Alex Johnson

The paper carries the daunting title “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.” The writing is appropriately dry, but it is dry like tinder is dry, and when it was discovered, the tinder was set alight. Now it is burning hot under the skin of Christian believers and thinkers.

This is what it finds:

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. ... The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly.”

And with that, its author, paleontologist Gregory Paul of Baltimore, joined the Antichrist of the Month Club.

In the lions’ den
There is a large and robust Christian constituency in the world of Weblogs, and they put Paul on the rack:

  • “This intellectually lazy, communist, radical, 1960’s leftover freakoid is doing his fake research at your expense ...”
  • “... completely biased and evidently untrained in proper research techniques.”
  • “... incompetent to the point of fraud.”

More mainstream religious leaders and thinkers also weighed in.

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote in his Web journal: “Here’s how to stack a deck for a false argument. Collect unrelated statistics and pass them off as proving causation.” The Canadian affiliate of Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based evangelical ministry that is highly influential in religious conservative politics, complained that Paul’s numbers did not “measure up with reality.”

And most significantly, George H. Gallup Jr. — of the Gallup Poll — concluded that “it is important to challenge Paul’s assertion forthrightly, because the casual, non-research-minded reader might easily accept his conclusion as entirely plausible on the face of it.”

To which Paul says: “I knew it was going to happen. If I lived in France and published something like this, nobody would care. I live in the United States. I knew this was going to happen.”

Be careful what you read
Much of the criticism stems from the newspaper article that brought Paul’s paper to public attention. Published in September by The Times of London, it reported: “Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.”

Paul was quickly skewered for mixing up correlation and causation. Just because the United States has the highest rate of religious faith and the highest crime rate doesn’t mean religion causes crime.

In fact, Paul’s paper — published in The Journal of Religion and Society by Creighton University, a Jesuit college in Omaha, Neb. — explicitly states that it “is not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health.” But that disclaimer was ignored in the Times report.

In all the confusion over what Paul said or didn’t say, his real contention is often missed. He explained that his research wasn’t really about the United States; it was about the other well-off Western democracies where religious belief is comparatively low. He wanted to examine the idea that a “secularized” society would do worse than a faithful society, which he called “a common theme of many religious people — not all of them, but many.”

“What my study shows is that’s simply not true,” Paul said in an interview.

“In Western society, there are many, many secularized nations that are performing quite well socially. So that’s the main conclusion,” he said. “What I’ve done is I’ve falsified what I call the creationist social hypothesis, and I’ve done that forever. You can never make the claim again that it’s impossible to have a society that’s non-religious that does well.”

What does the paper really show?
Critics who have studied his paper argue that Paul is being too cute by half. asked statistical and assessment experts to review Paul’s methodology, and while they largely concluded that the study was sound, some said his critics have a point.

Any statistician or social scientist will tell you that showing a correlation between two facts doesn’t mean much. If you like, you can also show a correlation between Paul’s indicators and time zones (the United States spans more than any other nation studied) or the number of McDonald’s restaurants or the number of national leaders named Bush.

The only point to demonstrating a correlation is to lay the groundwork for further study. Dr. Jennie Robinson Kloos, a specialist in assessment methodology at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., said you would then examine whether one factor causes the other, whether a third entity might be causing both or whether the correlation is a coincidence.

Paul said that’s exactly what he intended. His paper was “a first, brief look at an important subject that has been almost entirely neglected by social scientists ...,” he wrote. “It is hoped that these original correlations and results will spark future research and debate on the issue.”

But others — including statisticians consulted by who tentatively endorsed his work — aren’t so sure. Unless you have a point to make, why go to all that trouble?
They point to a lengthy segment in Paul’s paper that suggests a second correlation between belief in evolution and lack of religious faith. The statisticians remarked that — regardless of whether that was true — it was an odd point to make in a paper about social pathologies.

“One might argue that it’s silly to take a statistical measurement indicating belief in God and another indicating acceptance of evolution, draw a correlation, and extrapolate tons of conclusions about what this means for the state of these nations,” Kloos said.

But when you consider Greg Paul himself, it begins to make sense.

An author open about his biases
Paul, 50, a widely admired authority in dinosaur paleontology, is firmly in the pro-evolution, anti-creationist camp. “I‘m an agnostic, and I do have a viewpoint,” he said. “That’s important for people to know, and I don’t hide that.”

But it’s also irrelevant to whether his research is sound, he said. All that matters is whether it holds up.

The Journal of Religion and Science is a peer-reviewed, or “refereed,” journal, so Paul’s article would have been read and approved by a panel of outside experts. Because Paul was not identified in the article beyond his name and because he has not published previously on the subject, the panel most likely would not have known that he is not trained in sociology or religion, nor that he holds a strong anti-creationist view.

“It came back with the normal criticisms [and] suggestions for changes,” Paul said. “We went back and forth, and eventually it ended up being in publishable form, and there you go.”

Paul said he got the impression that the reviewers “might have been a bit uncomfortable, but they couldn’t find any major flaws with it, so they did the proper thing and published it.”

The journal’s editor, Dr. Ronald A. Simkins, did not reply to e-mail and telephone requests for an interview.

Seeking out the spotlight
If anything, Paul is happy about the controversy, even the attacks. They only serve to draw more attention to his research, which he says is unprecedented.

“I started looking at the literature, and I couldn’t find anything, and I started calling up sociologists and they said, nope, nobody’s done that sort of thing,” he said. “So I actually ended up opening a new field of research.”

Tim Cupery, a sociologist of religion at the University of North Carolina who otherwise dismisses Paul’s findings, said that on that score, he’s right. “A lot of American Christians have just kind of expected that European democracies which have low rates of religious faith would have more social problems,” he said.

“The question is very interesting,” Cupery said. It’s too bad, he added, that “half the statements [in Paul’s paper] are wrong.”

But Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist seminary — even as he questions Paul’s academic credentials and data — now says it doesn’t really matter whether he’s right or wrong. His paper sends the wrong message because it asks the wrong questions.

Sure, he’s concerned that “there were those trying to make the argument that a society made up of secular citizens would be better off than one made up of Christian citizens,” he said.

But “I also wanted to warn Christians that the argument for the truth of the Christian faith is independent of the social science statistics. It actually has very little to do with suggesting to a society that if you adopt [Christianity], you will better off as a people,” he said.

“I would go so far to say that I would not want a person to become a Christian because they want to see a lowering in social pathologies, but because they’ve come to believe in Christ.”

© 2005 MSNBC Interactive

Tuesday, December 13, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Accused pastor placed on 90-day suspension


EULESS -- Methodist church officials placed a pastor accused of molesting a 21-year-old man on a 90-day suspension Tuesday, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Bishop Ben Chamness has called for a special meeting Dec. 14 of top officials of the 28-county Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church to discuss further disciplinary action against the Rev. James L. Finley, 68.

They will determine then whether to permanently relieve Finley of his post as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Euless, conference spokeswoman Carolyn Stephens said.

"What happens at that meeting depends on pastor Finley," Stephens said. "He has not indicated that he wishes to resign, though he has met with the bishop to discuss the situation."

Finley will retain his salary and benefits during the investigation. The Rev. Charles McClure, retired director of the conference's finance and administration, will lead the Euless congregation until an interim pastor is appointed Dec. 14, Stephens said.

Finley, of Euless, could not be reached to comment Tuesday.

He was arrested Thursday in Euless after police say he molested a 21-year-old man. He was released that evening after posting $1,000 bail.

On Sunday, Chamness read a prepared statement to the Euless congregation: "This week, the news reported that your pastor, Rev. Jimmy Finley, was arrested for an act unbecoming of a Christian, much less a United Methodist minister. It has grieved me, and I am sure that it has grieved you. ... I trust that you will work together as never before, pray for one another, and seek the healing mercy of God."

Finley, who is married and has four adult children, has been at First United Methodist Church of Euless for the past four years, according to church records.

He is expected to be charged with public lewdness, a Class A misdemeanor, police have said. He could face a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted.


Euless pastor leaves ministryBy CAREN M. PENLANDSPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAMEULESS — A pastor who was arrested this month on suspicion of molesting a 21-year-old man has withdrawn from the United Methodist Church ministry, church authorities said. James L. Finley, who had been pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Euless for four years, relinquished his ministry credentials during a meeting Wednesday with Bishop Ben Chamness, head of the 28-county Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Finley, 68, will no longer be able to serve as a pastor at any church, perform weddings, or preach, officials said.

The Rev. Charles McClure, retired director of the conference’s finance and administration, will serve as interim pastor in Euless until Jan. 31, while church authorities search for a permanent replacement.

Finley, who was arrested Dec. 1, had been placed on 90 days’ suspension from the Euless church, which has about 1,400 members. He did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

Conference spokeswoman Carolyn Stephens said a pastor from another church will be appointed in Euless, which may cause “a shift in clergy in other area churches,” though she couldn’t say how many or which churches may be affected.
United Methodist pastors generally don’t spend more than five or six years at any given church, she said. In situations where a pastor resigns, a cabinet of top church authorities chooses a replacement from another area church, which will then also need a replacement, causing several pastors to move.

“We find the best person for the congregation,” she said. “Different congregations have different needs, and when something like this happens, church members need a strong and compassionate pastor to lead them through hard times.”

Finley, of Euless, was arrested after a 21-year-old man called police to report that he had been molested. Investigators urged the man to call Finley on the telephone and talk with him about what happened. Police recorded that phone conversation, during which Finley offered to perform additional sex acts on the man, police have said.

After the man returned to his apartment, Finley showed up and the man called police, who arrested Finley about a block away.

Finley is free on $1,000 bail. He is accused of public lewdness, a Class A misdemeanor, police have said. If convicted, he could face up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

“The church regrets that any [persons] might have been harmed by the undesirable actions of Finley,” Chamness said in a written statement Thursday. “The church stands ready to offer counseling to any of those who request it.”

Baptist pastor accused of raping Thai immigrant


PARMA, Ohio - The senior pastor of Parma Baptist Church in Cleveland's biggest suburb has been accused of raping a Thai immigrant and threatening to have her deported if she reported the crime.

Senior Pastor Richard G. Manning, 48, of Parma Heights, was arraigned Monday on a single felony rape count and was held on $100,000 bond to await a Thursday court hearing.

Manning arrived at the church in September after working for seven years in churches in the Oklahoma City area. Manning told police that before that he lived in Thailand for 15 years.

The woman, in her 40s, is not a member of the church. She called police on Saturday. She and Manning were introduced when he arrived in town because she is a native of Thailand, Parma police Capt. Robert DeSimone said.

She told police that Manning had raped her several times since November. Police said he coerced her into having sex by making her believe he could have her deported because she is not a U.S. citizen.

Associate Pastor Tim Shamburger said the church was aware of the charge and was waiting for the legal process to runs it course before taking any action.

There was no answer at Manning's home. A message seeking comment was left there Tuesday.

And More:
Pastor Arrested On Rape Charge
Several Incidents Involving Same Victim, Officials Say

PARMA, Ohio -- Richard G. Manning, 48, senior pastor of Parma Baptist Church, was in court Monday in connection with one count of rape.

He was ordered held on $100,000 bond.

Officials said there have been several incidents with the same alleged victim since the beginning of November 2005, with the most recent incident occurring Friday.

Manning is a new pastor at the church, according to a news release. He came to Parma in 1998 from Oklahoma City. He also lived in Thailand for 15 years.

WEWS reported Manning told the victim, who is from Thailand, that he would have her deported if she told anyone about what was going on.

Anglican priest guilty of sexual assaulting teen

By Steve Levin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Rev. David Valencia pleaded guilty yesterday in Common Pleas Court to sexual assault stemming from a series of incidents in 2001 involving a high school junior he was counseling at church.

Judge Donna Jo McDaniel sentenced him to 2 to 4 years in prison and 5 years' probation. He also must register as a sex offender.

"We think that this is justice served," said the victim's father. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not identify victims of sexual assaults.

Formerly assistant pastor at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Ohio Township, Mr. Valencia pleaded guilty to four felony charges, including one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and three counts of unlawful contact with a minor. He also pleaded guilty to indecent assault, endangering welfare of children and corruption of minors.

Mr. Valencia, 49, was ordained in 1998 as an Anglican priest by a Ugandan diocese. Bishop Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese in Pittsburgh had refused to ordain him, saying he was no longer a practicing Episcopalian.

The Ugandan bishop who ordained him has since retired. His successor, Bishop Nathan Kyamanywa, has said he would defrock the priest if he were found guilty of the charges.

According to court records, Mr. Valencia worked from 1998 until May 2002 at Christ Church at Grove Farm. He was accused of assaulting the girl during a series of counseling sessions in May and June 2001.

The church's rector, the Rev. John Guest, was told in June 2001 that Mr. Valencia was viewing sexually explicit Internet sites on his church computer. Mr. Guest, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, said he disciplined the assistant priest at the time and told him to seek counseling.

The victim's father said the church leader did not do enough, especially after Mr. Valencia continued counseling teens for several months after Mr. Guest disciplined him.

"I looked [John Guest] right in the eye and I said, 'John, he's counseling my daughter. Is she safe?'" the victim's father said. "He said, 'Yes, she's safe.' She was not safe."

A spokesman for the district attorney's office said a court hearing will be scheduled later on whether Mr. Valencia should be classified as a sexually violent predator.

Lynchburg Mayor/Methodist Church pastor accused of stealing money from a charity

Lynchburg Mayor Carl B. Hutcherson Jr. talked to reporters after appearing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. At right is his lawyer John P. Fishwick Jr.

Lynchburg Mayor Carl B. Hutcherson Jr., who faces a variety of fraud charges, said yesterday that he is "looking forward now to clearing my name.

"With family support and support from my friends, I'm just hanging in there," Hutcherson said, shortly after a brief hearing in U.S. District Court.

Hutcherson was arrested in Roanoke after voluntarily turning himself in yesterday morning to the FBI and U.S. marshals. He was fingerprinted and a mug shot was taken as part of the arrest process.

A federal grand jury indicted Hutcherson, 61, on Dec. 1 on seven counts, though the indictment was not unsealed until last Wednesday.

He is accused of stealing $31,500 from Trinity New Life Community Development Corp., a charity connected with the church where he is pastor. He is charged with using the money to pay off a $5,000 personal debt and $22,000 in back taxes.

He is also accused of using the Social Security benefits of two disabled people whose financial affairs he managed, making false statements to federal investigators and bank officials and with obstructing a federal investigation.

Hutcherson, flanked by lawyers John P. Fishwick Jr. and John E. Lichtenstein, was released without bond after a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael F. Urbanski.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant said after the hearing that Hutcherson "is not a risk of flight. He's been here [in Virginia] his entire life."

No trial date has been set. An arraignment, in which Hutcherson is expected to enter a plea of not guilty, may be held next week.

Fishwick said the trial will be held in Lynchburg. "We're looking forward to the opportunity of trying this," he said.

An at-large member of the City Council, Hutcherson was elected mayor by fellow council members. He said yesterday that he was unsure whether he would attend tonight's regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Hutcherson is the pastor and founder of Trinity United Methodist Church and co-owner of Carl B. Hutcherson Funeral Home. On Thursday, a day after the indictment was unsealed, Hutcherson requested a voluntary leave of absence from his church. His request must be reviewed by the Rev. Charlene Kammerer, bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the bishop's Cabinet and the conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Hutcherson, a Lynchburg native, faces up to 105 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine if convicted of all the charges.


Kansas Ranks Last in School Science Standards


A national education group says Kansas has the nation's worst science standards for public schools.

And the Thomas B. Fordham Institute condemns the state for rewriting its definition of science and treating evolution as a flawed theory.

The assessment comes after the State Board of Education approved the new standards last month. The Washington-based institute said Kansas' treatment of evolution "makes a mockery of the very definition of science.''

Supporters contend the new standards will expose students to valid criticisms of evolutionary theory and promote openness in the classroom. Board Chairman Steve Abrams called the institute's assessment "fraudulent.''

The institute described such changes as the result of a "relentless'' promotion of intelligent design. The concept holds that some features of the universe are best explained by an unspecified intelligent cause because they're orderly and complex.