In Ohio, the Rutherford Institute jumped into the John Freshwater case, though it’s not clear to me in what capacity. His attorney is the same, but at some point after he got fired, Rutherford came in to support him. I suspect maybe they just came in to pay the attorney for him. It hasn’t helped, as he’s lost both appeals since then. But Richard Hoppe reminds me of something I didn’t remember, that Rutherford tried to intervene in the Dover case as well.
In Dover, they tried to legally intervene — that is, tried to represent people trying to actually become parties to the case. On behalf of several parents, they filed a motion to intervene so they could defend the school board’s policy on the grounds that there was a First Amendment right to have ID taught in schools:
The Intervenors seek to participate in this action because, if the Plaintiffs are successful, the lawsuit will have the effect of censoring the Dover Area School District Board and shielding all ninth graders from criticism of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution…
[The intervenors] seek to ensure that their children will have full access to information concerning the theory of evolution, including its many gaps for which there is no evidence. The Applicants further seek to ensure that their children not be denied access to a critical analysis of evolution merely because some persons believe that critics of the theory are religiously motivated. (pp. 2-3)…
The Applicants have a substantial legal interest, rooted in the First Amendment, in making sure that their children are not prevented from learning about intelligent design.
Judge Jones denied that request, of course. The school board was already defending the ID policy and there was no point in having another group defend it as well, as it was the school board being sued.
Rutherford is an unusual organization. The head of the group, John Whitehead, supports silly things like this but at the same time he is also a real civil libertarian. They’ve done a lot of important work on free speech and free exercise cases and Whitehead has been a loud and consistent voice against both Bush and Obama for their unconstitutional polices in the war on terror.
But cases like this are where they go off the deep end. The notion that parents or students have a right to be taught nonsense just because they believe it is absurd and, if adopted by the courts, would render it all but impossible to teach anything in school. The anti-evolution case made by ID advocates is no more credible than the arguments made against any other major idea in science. If Rutherford got their way, we would have to teach dozens of alternative explanations for everything from heliocentrism to relativity. And that’s not even getting into the question of all the alternative ideas one would have to teach in history and other social studies classes.
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