Skip to comments.When Real Judicial Conservatives Attack [Dover ID opinion]
Posted on 01/09/2006 8:26:54 AM PST by PatrickHenry
If theres anything to be learned from the intelligent design debate, its that branding activist judges is the hobby of bitter losers.
For those who care about the fight over evolution in biology classrooms, Christmas came five days early when the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District ruling was handed down. In his decision, Judge John E. Jones III ruled that not only is the theory of intelligent design religion poorly dressed in science language, teaching it in class is an outright violation of the First Amendment.
The ruling was a concise and devastating demonstration of how law, precedent and evidence can come together to drive complete nonsense out of the courtroom. But if the aftermath of the event proves anything, it proves that nine times out of 10, if someone accuses a judge of being an activist, it is because he disagrees with the ruling and wants to make it clear to like-minded followers that they only lost because the liberals are keeping them down. Gratuitous overuse has, in just a few short years, turned the phrase judicial activism from a description of an actual problem in the legal system into a catch-all keyword for any ruling that social conservatives dislike.
During the months between the initial suit and the final decision, a high-powered law firm from Chicago volunteered some of its best to represent the plaintiffs pro bono, defenders of evolution and intelligent design mobilized, and few people really cared other than court watchers, biology nerds and a suspicious number of creationist groups. The trial went well for the plaintiffs: Their witnesses and evidence were presented expertly and professionally, and it never hurts when at least two of the witnesses for the defense are caught perjuring themselves in their depositions. Advocates for teaching actual science in school science classes were fairly confident that Jones was going to rule in their favor.
When it came, the ruling was significant enough to earn a slightly wider audience than the aforementioned court watchers, biology nerds and creationists. What drew interest from newcomers was not the minutiae of the trial, but the scope of Jones ruling and the scorn for the Dover School Boards actions that practically radiated off the pages. He ruled both that intelligent design was a religious idea, and that teaching it in a science class was an unconstitutional establishment of religion by the state. He didnt stop there, however.
It is ironic, he wrote, 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 intelligent design policy.
Such harsh language might provoke some sympathy for intelligent design advocates, if they hadnt immediately demonstrated how much they deserved it by responding not with scientific arguments for intelligent design or legal precedent to contradict Jones ruling but with ridiculous name-calling. The Discovery Institute, the leading center of ID advocacy, referred to Jones as an activist judge with delusions of grandeur. Bill OReilly also brought out the A word on his show. Richard Land, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and noted drama queen, declared him the poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror. The American Family Association, having apparently read a different ruling than the rest of America, insisted that judges were so eager to keep God out of schools that they would throw out even scientific evidence for Him. Funny how so many creationist groups seemed to have missed the memo that intelligent design isnt supposed to be about God at all.
It was depressingly predictable that the intelligent design crowd would saturate the Internet with cries of judicial activism regardless of the actual legal soundness of the ruling. In only a few years, intellectually lazy political leaders have morphed an honest problem in the judiciary that deserves serious debate into shorthand for social conservatisms flavor of the week. The phrase has been spread around so much and applied to so many people that it only has meaning within the context of someones rant. It is the politico-speak equivalent of dude.
Only when one learns that Jones was appointed by George W. Bush and had conservative backers that included the likes of Tom Ridge and Rick Santorum can one appreciate how indiscriminately the term is thrown around. Jones is demonstrably a judicial conservative. In fact, hes the kind of strict constructionist that social conservatives claim to want on the bench. Their mistake is in assuming that the law and their ideology must necessarily be the same thing.
In the end, no one could defend Jones better than he did himself. He saw the breathless accusations of judicial activism coming a mile away, and refuted them within the text of the ruling. In his conclusion he wrote:
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 intelligent design, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Boards 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.
Jones knew his name would be dragged through the mud and issued the correct ruling anyway. One can only hope that the utter childishness of the intelligent design response will alienate even more sensible people, and that the phrase judicial activism will from now on be used only by those who know what theyre talking about. No bets on the latter.
It is not the questioning of the Theory of Evolution that is unconstitutional, it is the teaching in public schools of religious concepts for religious reasons. The book "Of Pandas and People" was shown by trial evicence to be a creationist book through and through, published by a religious organization for religious purposes and containing a religious message. It was introduced by the Dover Area School Board for religious reasons to accomplish a religious goal. The Dover community understood that the controversy was over a religious question, as the judge noted by pointing out that letters to the editor in the York newspapers (both pro and con) where overwhelmingly discussing the religious aspects of the controversy.
So why no protests when the football players thank Jesus for a touchdown? Although I do admit to being perplexed that they don't seem to blame Jesus for turnovers and drive-killing holding calls.
Be careful what you wish for. The "Conservatives" did get a non-activist judge and they don't like it.
Perhaps Syncretic does not know that Sir Isaac was an Arianist heretic. What was that about opposing a cult?
Like an activist judge is going to admit to being one. Only an activist judge would feel a need to offer up such a comment.
Is it (Islam) being taught in science class as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution?
Must be some more of that mystery fine print in the constitution that only liberals can read.
Physician, heal thyself...
Taking Supreme Court precedents and the First Amendment seriously is pure conservatism. Tossing out precedent and the Constitution to please a gaggle of theocrats isn't any sane person's idea of what a conservative judge should do.
That is implicit, or more than implicit, in the Declaration of Independence. The legitimacy of the government - and of the currency and coin of the realm - actually ultimately depend on that premise.
Judge John E. Jones III should be the next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Until evolutionists can demonstrate how a strand of DNA can self-assemble, survive in a hostile chemical environment, and purposelessly begin to reproduce and form the form the first living cell, I'd say the theory is baloney.
You'd say that, but that's because you're grossly ignorant. Clue for the clueless: The theory of evolution deals with the processes which cause living things to change as they reproduce. It has nothing whatsoever to do with how life may have originally formed, since however that may have happened, it was (obviously) a pre-evolutionary process.
Your whine is as pointless as saying that meteorology (the study of weather) is "baloney" until it is determined where the atmosphere came from. To any thinking person, it's obvious that the validity of meteorology doesn't depend in the least on how or when the atmosphere may have originated, since it only concerns itself with how the atmosphere behaves now that it's here.
And likewise for evolutionary biology with regards to the origins of life.
Nonetheless, if you're trying to claim that biologists have not made serious progress into understanding how DNA originated, you're very mistaken.
People need to learn to think for themselves and reject the "received knowledge" from evolutionists with their own stubborn belief system.
Actually, people need to learn something about a subject before they say stupid things about it out of ignorance. Evolutionary biology is not "received knowledge", it's based on over a century of research and vast mountains of independently cross-confirming lines of evidence, and consists of conclusions which have been validated and revalidated countless times, and have survived huge numbers of potential falsification attempts.
####Judge John E. Jones III should be the next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.####
Only if you want another Souter.
Maybe God just likes an exciting game.
You summed it up nicely. Thanks.
Can you prove humans descended from apes?