Arguments have come to an end in the Dover, Pa. court case that will decide whether intelligent design theory can be taught as an alternative to evolution in a ninth-grade biology class. Following the dramatic election-day ouster of all eight members of the Dover school board, who had supported intelligent design, the nation's attention turned to Judge John E. Jones III, who will decide the case. Below is an excerpt from the closing argument of the defendant's lawyer, who insisted that the school board did not intend for public school students to learn about creationism or any other religious idea--only to have a fully-formed science curriculum. Read an excerpt from the plaintiff's closing argument here.

ATTORNEY PATRICK T. GILLEN: To hear the testimony presented to the Court in this area is to realize that religious liberty cuts both ways, and it would be absurd to penalize board actions based on a few isolated comments with a religious thrust.

In any event, as you well know, the plaintiffs cannot show that the defendants had a religious purpose based on statements made by individuals. What matters here is the action of the public body as a whole determined first and foremost by the actual language of the policy that is at issue and its actual effect.

The purpose of a public body, likewise, cannot be proven by the evidence of the motives or purposes of third parties, whether scientists, academics, editors, authors, or publishers, because, again, the purpose of public bodies must be determined with reference to the collective purpose of the public body.

It is simply not the law that the mere mention of the word "creationism" is illegal in these United States.

Therefore, as you make your findings in this case, Judge, you must be mindful of something that is very clear and was stated throughout this case. Bill Buckingham is not the board, as Jeff Brown, Alan Bonsell, Sheila Harkins, Mike Baksa, and Rich Nilsen all took pains to point out at various points in this process we have scrutinized.

Likewise, the documents in 2002 and 2003 do not satisfy the plaintiffs' burden of proof, because, again, actions speak louder than words. It is simply not the law that the mere mention of the word "creationism" is illegal in these United States.

Certainly Dover's principal and biology teachers didn't think so, for they mentioned creationism in their introduction to evolutionary theory.

The whole net result of this policy is to replace that introductory mention of creationism with an introductory mention of intelligent design. There is simply no meaningful way in which this outcome can be said to advance religion in any way given the nature of the statement at issue in this case.

Now, it is true that the board did not agree with all the assertions and recommendations of the science faculty or the administration, for that matter, but, of course, it's the board's right and duty to exercise its judgment when adopting measures designed to serve the citizens of Dover. After all, consultation designed to help the board perform its functions does not mean capitulation to the science faculty.

Quite the contrary, the board's decision is entitled to great deference precisely because the board is elected by citizens who entrust the board with public responsibility, and it's those citizens who have the ultimate say.

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