Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thanks for the Bill of Rights. Let's keep it intact.

On Sunday, the Centre Daily Times published a column "recognizing those who have made marks on the world." Author Rhonda Chriss Lokeman thanks whistle-blowers, peacekeepers and human rights organizations. She also says:
"Thanks for the Bill of Rights. It keeps politics in its place, something best remembered during USA Patriot Act deliberations."
We are thankful for the flurry of editorials across the state and across the country calling for Congress to reform the PATRIOT Act and supporting the Senate Bill. We've seen editorials in Scranton's Times Tribune, the Centre Daily Times, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

We encourage you to write to your local papers. Support editorial boards that have taken a stand and encourage others to do the same. Here's a letter in response to an Allentown Morning Call editorial. And another from Clint Walker, a member of the Lehigh Valley Bill of Rights Defense Committee:
"Four years after hurried passage, the complex USA Patriot continues to alarm many Americans with its handful of police state provisions. When Congress reconvenes, a conference committee will try to reconcile the two houses’ conflicting versions for renewing the Act. The November committee draft was so hostile to civil liberties that a bipartisan group of Senators vowed to use all parliamentary means to keep it from becoming law.

Opposition to the House’s proposals to make the Act more invasive spans the entire political spectrum, including Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservative Union, American Bar Association, National Association of Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, and ACLU. In addition, 392 local governments and seven state legislatures have passed resolutions against the original Act. The issues are not only privacy and due process; business interests and local governments do not want to bear the unfunded costs of responding to federal demands for information under the Act and the costs of litigating their objections to those demands.

With this rare pan-partisan opposition to the Act’s invasiveness, it is politically defiant for the House to push to make the Act more invasive, remove sunsets entirely from 14 of the Act’s original 16 provisions, and enact long seven year sunsets for the remaining two provisions. Until the Act is proved both effective and non-injurious, Congress should be required, through sunsets, to evaluate it in its entirety every four years."
Keep it up, folks, our voices are being heard!

Never let it be said that we're not fair and balanced

I recently discovered that defendants' recent filings in the Dover trial are available on the Middle District's website. Here they are.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New Yorker covers Dover trial

There's a wonderful 12-page article about the Dover trial in the Dec. 5, 2005 issue of the New Yorker (and I'm not just saying that because the reporter predicts victory for our side). It features a lovely full-page drawing of our attorney Eric Rothschild cross-examining Professor Michael Behe. You can see the drawing and an interview with the author of the article on the New Yorker website, although you can't read the article there.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dover trial almost-final briefs filed

Whoever just posted a question about the Dover briefs must have a psychic connection to us. I just uploaded them. Here they are:

Plaintiffs' Proposed Findings and Conclusions (393k PDF)
Plaintiffs' Brief in Support of Proposed Findings and Conclusions (317k PDF)

So last Friday was the deadline for both sides to file their last briefs. Each side has this week to respond to the other, and then the attorneys will finally be able to reacquaint themselves with their families.

Judge Jones has said that he hopes to rule by the end of the year, early January at the absolute latest.

PSU Professors Fight Back

The Centre Daily Times reports that several PSU professors are establishing a Penn State chapter of the American Association of University Professors (an organization that works to protect academic autonomy and freedom). The group is being launched due to concerns posed by the PA House 'Academic Freedom' Hearings. The first AAUP meeting at PSU is scheduled for this Thursday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Teen rapper case settles

The Latour family, represented by the ACLU of PA, has settled their lawsuit with the Riverside Beaver School District. Anthony Latour was expelled from school last school year for rap lyrics he had written on the internet. Here is an excerpt from our press release:
Kim Watterson, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer from the international law firm Reed Smith who handled the case on a pro bono basis, said that she was pleased with the settlement: "In August, the court reaffirmed the basic constitutional principle that words by themselves rarely can justify censorship, as well as the principle that school students have speech rights protected by the First Amendment," said Watterson.

In praising the agreement as a victory for students' rights, Watterson added, "The settlement not only resolves the Latours' dispute with the school district, but also results in important changes to the school policy, ensuring that Riverside's students' speech rights will be protected - especially when they are in their own homes. Although the courts have given school officials authority to regulate and punish students' expression while they are in school, teachers and administrators need to recognize that the First Amendment limits their authority to play parent when the students are home."

Also, the Latour family released a statement. Here is an excerpt:
This was very unfortunate. This dispute arose from two able-bodied teenagers taunting one another and two young rappers engaging in a lyrical contest. In our generation, this behavior took place on the playground, where parents were not around to hear. We are now living in the age of the Internet, the new playground of our children, where parents and educators have access to these communications. Before school administrators jumped to any conclusions, everyone involved should have been invited to sit down and discuss the situation.

Full press release and family statement

The Kill People Faster Act of 2005

163, 13, and 122. In recent years, our criminal justice system has come under greater scrutiny as technology has allowed us to reexamine cases. 163 people have been cleared by DNA evidence. 13 of those 163 were people on death row. And 122 death row defendants have been exonerated of wrongdoing (with or without DNA) in the "modern" era of the death penalty (post-1976). On November 14, Speaking Freely opined about the "shocking, unjust, and unacceptable" system of capital punishment in America, and the very next day Harold Wilson of Philadelphia was acquitted at retrial after 16 years on PA's death row.

So how do some members of Congress respond? By introducing legislation known as the Streamlined Procedures Act that would, essentially, cut off state prisoners' access to the federal courts. Apparently, some in Congress don't want these innocence cases to see the light of day, and they certainly don't want the federal courts examining whether or not a person's constitutional rights have been violated. ("Constitutional rights? A mere technicality.")

About a month ago, ACLU-PA sent out an action alert on this issue. Several newspapers have also strongly denounced this legislation, most recently The Birmingham News ("Denying due process") and the Los Angeles Times ("A rush to execution").

Monday, November 21, 2005

PATRIOT Act: "Time is of the essence"

For an informative update on what the heck is going on in D.C. with the PATRIOT Act, check out the 11/18 post on the National ACLU's Reform the PATRIOT Act Blog.

Also, check out the great editorial in the Lebanon Daily News last Saturday regarding PATRIOT Act reauthorization.

And, as always, please CALL your elected Senators and Representatives. It is particularly important to target Senator Specter, Senator Santorum, and Congressman Weldon.

Let's keep it up--the pressure actually appears to be working!!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Patriot Act rollercoaster

For those trying to keep score at home (and here at our office), it's been difficult to follow the crazy path of the Patriot Act renewal bill. Although this week it was announced that the conference committee had reached a tentative agreement, it now appears that there is no deal on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. According to news reports, Congress has put on the brakes and more discussion and negotiation will occur over the next two weeks.

Watch for more news stories over the weekend. After we have a chance to digest all of this, we will be reaching out to all of you with a lot more ideas about how we can continue fighting for real reform of the Patriot Act

You Tell 'em Russ!

"The conference committee is on notice..."

OK. We activists and advocates say that stuff all the time, but how often do we see a bipartisan crew of Senators demonstrate more than a modicum of backbone. Senator Russ Feingold has released a press release on the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and the nasty bill that's come out of the conference committee. Here's another taste
"I am proud to join my colleagues from the Senate and the House, Republicans and Democrats, in calling on the members of the USA PATRIOT Act conference committee to give us a bill that we can support - a bill that makes reasonable changes to the Patriot Act to safeguard Americans' civil liberties. In other words, a bill like the one the Senate passed by unanimous consent in July."

Of course, he does say "no one" wants the PATRIOT Act to expire and I could quibble with him about that. I can think of...oh...a half a million ACLU members and their allies that would like the PAT Act's sun to set (or at least these provisions). But, props to Feingold and crew for taking stand and advocating for the Senate bill.

Once again, CALL your Senators and Representatives. Call them and tell them to support the Senate bill. It's the best thing going right now. That and a few plucky senators.

The kid's alright

Kudos to North Penn High School student Chris Schiano for standing up for his right to free expression. Chris was removed from classes on October 24, 2005 because he wore a shirt that displayed a picture of President Bush over the words "International Terrorist."

Chris wore the shirt without incident through his three morning classes, but then a security guard in the lunchroom noticed the shirt and demanded that Chris remove it or turn it inside out to hide the message. When Chris refused to do either, he was taken to the administrative office, where he spent the rest of the day.

Lisa Wildman, Chris's mother, later spoke to Principal Burton Hynes, who told her that students are not permitted to wear shirts that are "controversial" or "offensive." Principal Hynes told Ms. Wildman that a shirt that praised the President would have been fine, that a shirt supportive of gay rights would have been discouraged but tolerated, but that Chris's shirt was forbidden because it was "disrespectful to the President." Chris and Lisa contacted the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which demanded that North Penn retract its ban on the shirt. After 10 days and a threat of litigation, the school finally backed down.

This shirt has gotten other students in trouble before (and other school districts who've tried to prevent students from wearing it). In 2003 a Dearborn Heights student was told he had to remove a version of the same shirt, but a federal judge ruled that the student had the right to wear it.

Entire press release here.

From our fan club

Just as I was starting to feel completely overwhelmed by all the craziness going on in this country these days, a friend forwarded me a link to this posting on the blog Pharyngula. It's about an anti-evolution and anti-ACLU rant. Here's a bit of what was quoted:

Today, hundreds of public institutions live in fear of an ACLU lawsuit. ACLU can be proud of this achievement. It is the single greatest agency, next to the United States government, for the repression of divergent opinion. Some might call it McCarthyism but I wouldn't disgrace the name of Joseph McCarthy by associating it with ACLU

Well, there's nothing like good old-fashioned ACLU-bashing to cheer me right up.(Note to all those who send us hate mail: you might be dismayed to know what a kick we get out of your emails. We circulate them to each other.)

I must confess to being confused by this part of the rant, though:

The fervor of the hostility of the ACLU and other secularist and Leftist types smacks of the intolerance of religious fanatics that they often smirk about. They are the priests of the The Religion of Man in The Church of Government.

Funny, last time I checked, we sue the government. We don't generally worship there.

The F-word

As in filibuster. Senator Russ Feingold is threatening to filibuster the Patriot Act renewal if the conference removes the civil liberties protections that were unanimously passed by the Senate.

What, exactly, would Senator Feingold read during a filibuster? The Bill of Rights.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ready, set, call your elected officials!

Just as Thanksgiving approaches, the fight over reforming the Patriot Act is turning into a real brawl. The Bush Administration is putting on a lot of pressure on both the House and Senate to pass a real turkey of a bill reauthorizing the Patriot Act. That bill would not include any meaningful reforms. Fortunately, a bipartisan group of Senators is now threatening to block the reauthorization of the Patriot Act unless it contains the significant reforms passed by the Senate earlier this year.

The situation in D.C. is very fluid. Our federal legislators are dealing with this and a multitude of other issues as it once again reminds some of us of college and those fun times we all had during finals week.

Amidst all this uncertainty, there is one thing we know - now is the perfect time to call our Senators and Congressional delegation. For more information on what is happening and info on how to contact these legislators go to our Patriot Act action page.

Call your Representative.
Call Senators Specter and Santorum.
Call a non-Pennsylvania Senator.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sorry, no do-overs

Speaking of the Dover trial (and really, when aren't we?), we thought you'd enjoy this article from today's York Daily Record. Apparently one of the outgoing board members believed the case could be made moot if they removed intelligent design from the curriculum and then had their lawyers, the Thomas More Center, move to have the case dismissed.

This idea didn't go over well with the Thomas More Center, which has been trying for years to have a court rule on the constitutionality of intelligent design. (The board member was unable to get the support of his fellow board members.)

All transcripts present & accounted for

For all of you who have been emailing us to see when the trial transcripts will be completed, we have good news. Yes, the transcripts from the trial are finally complete. All the damaged files have also been replaced with new ones.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


ACLU on the Airwaves
Lisa Graves, National ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy, is on the PA airwaves this week with an update on the PATRIOT Act and reauthorization activities.

Listen for Graves on WHYY throughout the day today (11/15/05).

Listen tomorrow (11/16/05) on the Lynn Cullen radio show at 10:05 am on WPTT 1360 AM.
Listen to the webcast at

At long last, there is movement on the PATRIOT Act.
In a promising shift, the House voted by unanimous voice vote to recommend a four year extension on certain PATRIOT Act provisions, as opposed to the ten year extension written into the original House legislation. This includes Section 215, which allows the FBI to exercise "secret search powers" without probable cause.

The House has also named its conference committee. The committee will begin meeting today with the Senate committee to reconcile the House and Senate legislation. Among the conferees is Pennsylvania Representative Curt Weldon (7th Congressional District). If you are in Rep. Weldon's district, please contact his office and urge him to support the Senate legislation, which restores limited checks and balances.

Last week, American Bar Association released a letter criticizing several provisions regarding standard of proof, jurors in capital cases and oversight of surveillance. The ABA also offered support for the Senate four-year sunset language. Meanwhile, the ACLU is working with The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and criminal-defense lawyers to lobbying for additional reforms.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"Shocking, unjust, and unacceptable"

The following op-ed from ACLU-PA staffer Andy Hoover appeared in Sunday's York Daily Record/York Sunday News.

As the United States Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972 in Furman v. Georgia, Justice Thurgood Marshall commented, "The American people are largely unaware of the information critical to a judgment on the morality of the death penalty...if they were better informed they would consider it shocking, unjust, and unacceptable."

Justice Marshall obviously had an optimism about the people of this country that if they only knew, if they just had the information in hand, they would discard capital punishment for good. 33 years later, and 29 years after the Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia, either the American people still don't know or they just don't care, for this country will soon execute someone for the 1000th time since 1976.

And yet one could argue that Justice Marshall's message is getting through, albeit one step at a time. Although we are approaching a sordid milestone, death sentences have actually dropped nationally by more than 50% since the late 1990s. Here in Pennsylvania, death sentences have declined for five straight years and have dropped more than 80% in ten years. In 1994, the Commonwealth handed out 21 capital convictions but just four in 2004. Death sentences are trending downward because the American public is awakening to the problems with capital punishment and are becoming suspicious of the power of life-and-death in the hands of government.

Moratoria in Illinois and Maryland, court-ordered shutdowns of the death chamber in New York, New Jersey, Kansas, and Florida, the end of the execution of the mentally retarded and children, and the continuously revolving door of innocent people walking off of death row have our odd institution of capital punishment crumbling under its own burdensome weight.

But what, exactly, was Justice Marshall talking about in 1972? What is "the information critical to a judgment on the morality of the death penalty"? What is so "shocking, unjust, and unacceptable"? Regrettably, many of the problems that the Court examined in 1972 still exist today.

As the nation nears its 1000th execution, it is instructive to look at who gets executed in this country. Race matters. Pennsylvania's death row has the second-highest minority rate in the country at 69%, giving the Commonwealth the feel of apartheid-era South Africa. Governor Ed Rendell and some prosecutors have said that this is the case because it is minorities who are committing first degree murder in this state. What they fail to tell us is that juries determine if it is first, second, or third degree murder, and only death penalty supporters can serve on a capital jury. These juries are made up of people who, like all of us, carry their own imperfections and biases.

To make matters worse, some prosecutors deliberately remove minorities from the jury pool during jury selection. The Philadelphia District Attorney's office was recently exposed for training its prosecutors on how to remove minorities from juries and still get around the Supreme Court's 1986 ruling in Baston v. Kentucky, which declared it unconstitutional to remove potential jurors simply on the basis of race. The Philly DA's office even produced a training video on the issue.

Yet the race of the victim plays an even greater role in deciding life or death. Of the nearly 1000 executed, more than 80% were cases that involved white victims, despite the fact that nationally only 50% of murder victims are white. How do we explain this disparity?

Money matters, too. Nationally and in Pennsylvania, 9 of every 10 death row inmates were too poor to afford their own attorney at trial. Many court-appointed attorneys and public defenders are honest, hard-working people who are simply overworked, underpaid, and lacking in the resources necessary for a quality defense. In addition, the Commonwealth provides no funding for post-conviction appeals. Only the brilliant, pro-bono capital appeals work of the Federal Defenders Association in Philadelphia, with contributions from various private attorneys around the state, has kept Pennsylvania from becoming the Texas of the North.

Racial bias, ineffective counsel for the poor, and police/prosecutorial misconduct are the seeds that sow the wrongful convictions of the innocent. Since 1986, twice as many innocent men have been discovered on the state's death row than have been executed. One cannot help but wonder how many more innocents sit on The Row today.

Lastly, while America marks its gruesome achievement, there is one final statistic to consider. In the time that the United States has been killing 1000 people, 69 countries have abolished the death penalty. Many of these nations are sometimes referred to as "third world" or "developing", but when it comes to state-sanctioned murder, "fully evolved" would probably be the operative term.

Justice Marshall's optimism about the people of this great country is inspiring. With "the information critical to a judgment on the morality of the death penalty", the American people will ultimately end capital punishment.

Along with his work for the ACLU of PA, Andy Hoover is also the president of Central Pennsylvanians to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Welcome Back to Society--NOT!

We blogged earlier about House Bill 1318, which would deny ex-offenders the right to vote while they are still on probation or parole (in PA, ex-offenders currently have that right). Now, a new bill is circulating in the Senate that would take away ex-offenders' right to vote for FIVE YEARS after they have completed probation or parole. The language of the Senate Bill 5 is such that this would affect not only ex-felons, but some ex-misdemeanants as well.

What is the issue here? Are legislators concerned that voting will actually increase the chance of recidivism for ex-offenders? Call us paranoid, but we have a feeling these bills may be designed and intended to suppress votes--and at a time when crucial provisions of the Voting Rights Act are set to expire unless we can get Congress to act in order to renew them. Contact your PA legislators today and urge them to oppose Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 1318!

Closing arguments in Dover; Buckingham's Cross-Examination

For you reading pleasure - the transcript from the afternoon of the final day of trial. This includes both sides' closing arguments, along with Judge Jones comments. Enjoy!

Transcript Day 21 afternoon

Oh - and this just in: transcript containing cross-examination of former board member Bill Buckingham. It's fun stuff, including how Buckingham denied knowing where the donated copies of Of Pandas and People came from in his two depositions, but admitted on the stand that he received donations from his fellow church members to purchase the books.

Transcript Day 16 PM

Sunday, November 13, 2005

All eyes on Judge Jones

The twists and turns of the Dover case, including the school board election and Pat Robertson's comments, have kept the media interested 9 days after the trial concluded. Both the York Daily Record and The (Harrisburg) Patriot News have turned their attention to Judge John E. Jones III:
Judge Jones: Off the bench (York Daily Record)
Dover case judge doesn't disclose intention for ruling's scope (The Patriot News)

And, like Speaking Freely, the YDR can't resist The Dover Trial: The Movie. Apparently, Mrs. Jones is partial to Tom Hanks:
Casting Call: Who should play Jones?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Luckily Dover isn't located in a flood zone

We're not usually rendered speechless here, but this story did it.

Robertson: Pa. Voters Rejected God

"If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just voted God out of your city." Pat Robertson

(CBS/AP) The Reverend Pat Robertson says Pennsylvanians who voted members of the Dover Area school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" rejected God as well. More

The 'Bigfoot' Committee

A Pennsylvania House Committee investigating 'academic freedom' at PA colleges and universities concluded two days of hearings today at the University of Pittsburgh. Last summer the Pennsylvania House passed HR177, which created a select committee to hold hearings across the state and investigate whether the academic rights of conservative students are being violated at public institutions of higher education.

While not opposed to academic freedom, the ACLU is concerned these efforts actually intended to stymie it. As students, faculty, and administrators repeatedly testified at the U.Pitt. hearings, colleges and universities already have a functioning, effective grievance policy if a student feels they are being discriminated against for any reason. The House hearings appear to be a colossal waste of time (and taxpayers' money) that could also have a chilling effect on free speech at PA public institutions of higher education.

Rep. Armstrong, who spearheaded the resolution and hearings, claimed to have received complaints from 50 students alleging discrimination from liberal professors. He didn't, however, produce any evidence or specifics.

If the Armstrong/McCarthy analogy is too tempting for you, it got particularly acute today when Armstong exited the hearing mid-morning, thus leaving the main investigator's seat empty for the reminder of the day. Some students couldn't resist the comparison yesterday, and began chanting "HUAC GO AWAY!" in the middle of the proceedings (see today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article for more details on yesterday's hearing).

This morning's testimony largely consisted of Rep. Armstrong quizzing the Provost James V. Maher about issues ranging from faculty members' campaign contributions to the term 'social justice' appearing on the School of Social Work's website.

Some committee members clearly had heard enough.

Complaining that their entire investigation had yielded no cause for concern, Rep. Surra compared it to a committee sent to look for Bigfoot. "This is a solution in search of a problem," he stated.

Another committee member added "I don't even think it's a solution."

The Provost was followed by Burrell Brown, Chair of the Department of Business and Economics at California University of PA, who testified against the necessity of such hearings. The 'public comments' portion brought a succession of students and faculty, all opposing the need for House oversight of professors' politics.

One committee member noted he had "grave concerns" about what the committee was doing, claiming the resources spent on hearings could be better allocated to "issues that are actually on taxpayers' tongues," like healthcare, cost of higher education, and infrastructure.

Based on today's hearings alone, it is easy to dismiss the likelihood of anything developing from these proceedings. But the 'Academic Bill of Rights' has been adopted in nine states already, and proponents like Rep. Armstrong are clearly tenacious. Two or three more hearings are expected in the coming months at school across the state, and we will try to have an ACLU presence to report back on each one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More transcripts

We just received transcripts from last Thursday. Unfortunately, the afternoon transcript once again has those annoying type 3 font errors. You can still read most of the transcript, though.

Transcript Day 20 AM (136k PDF)Michael Baksa and Robert Linker
Transcript Day 20 PM - damaged but partially readable (3.7MB PDF) Scott Minnich

We've also filled in some of the missing transcripts from earlier in the trial (thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education). Here's the reorganized and more complete transcript page.

The Most Watched School Board Election in the Country

Yes, it's true - the Dover Area school board was swept out of office in yesterday's election. Eight of the nine board members were up for re-election, and all were defeated. Board member Alan Bonsell, who was one of the driving forces behind the addition of "intelligent design" to the science curriculum, received the least amount of votes, according to newspaper reports.

Here are some links to stories about the election. Unfortunately I haven't actually been able to read the York Daily Record story yet - their server seems to be overloaded with hits at the moment.

Washington Post Pennsylvania Voters Oust School Board
New York Times Evolution Slate Outpolls Rivals
York Daily Record story

As someone in our office pointed out, this is great timing for the movie. Believe it or not, Paramount actually sent a representative to observe the trial. They are thinking of making it into a movie. Of course, we've already started thinking about casting. (Rumor has it one of our lawyers wants to be played by George Clooney.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day in Dover

For those of you who are still focused on Dover (we certainly are), this Patriot News article talks about the impact of today's election on Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board.
"The legal battle over Dover Area School District's policy on intelligent design won't go away if candidates opposed to it win today's school board election, a lawyer in the case said."

Are you voting today?

Will you be allowed to vote in the future?

Ah, election day, that day in the U.S. when all citizens converge on public school auditoriums around the country to have a voice in the democratic process... of course, by "all," I mean the 54% of Americans that actually vote in this country, but that’s a subject for another blog.

And, by "all," I'm referring those who were not affected by the "38,000 alleged incidents of...intimidation, mishandled...ballots, malfunctioning or inaccurate machines and/or apparent hacking and vote tampering" that occurred during the 2004 presidential election. More on this...

And, by "all," I do not include the estimated 4.7 million potential voters who are disenfranchised by state legislation that prohibit voting by those with a felony conviction, but we will get to that later...

Voting Rights Act in Action in PA:

Today, the Department of Justice sent poll monitors to Reading, PA, because of a history of policies and procedures that have proven restrictive to Spanish-speaking voters of Puerto Rican descent. This occurs under the Voting Rights Act, dubbed by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted." (It's a good quote, we're just not going to talk about his torture memo, right now.)

Now in it’s 40th year, key provisions of the Voting Rights Act are set to expire in 2007, including Section 203 that ensures language minority assistance and Sections 6 and 9, which provide for federal monitors and observers. Also up for reauthorization: Section 5, the provision that requires federal approval for any changes to voting law or procedure in districts with a history of discriminatory practices.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee has begun to hold hearings on the Voting Rights Act and they are currently being webcast.

ACTION ALERT: House Bill 1318 Could Restrict Voting Rights in PA

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Pennsylvania, our elected officials are considering legislation that could severely limit the voting public. House Bill 1318 requires photo identification of all voters and denies voting rights of ex-felons who are serving probation or parole.

Photo ID requirements disproportionately impact upon elderly, poor and disabled voters, who are less likely to have an acceptable photo ID. A federal judge has blocked a similar Georgia law, on the grounds that requiring ID constitutes a poll tax, and the ACLU is currently challenging a New Mexico version. Check out Doonesbury's take on the Georgia law.

Under existing Pennsylvania law, a person convicted of a felony is permitted to vote once he or she leaves prison. HB 1318 would strip away that right for voters on probation or parole. Laws that disenfranchise ex-offenders disproporitionally impact people of color, including thirteen percent of African American men, and they

"have no discernible legitimate purpose. Deprivation of the right to vote is not an inherent or necessary aspect of criminal punishment nor does it promote the reintegration of offenders into lawful society...No other democratic country in the world denies as many people-in absolute or proportional terms-the right to vote because of felony convictions
I can't say it better than the folks at the Sentencing Project.
Pennsylvania Voters: Urge your legislators to oppose HB1318!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Some PA Reps. would rip out the welcome mat for immigrants

At our central chapter's annual meeting in June in State College, Rev. Warren Eshbach told a great story about how the Church of the Brethren came to colonial America. Rev. Eshbach is a prof at Elizabethtown College and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and as he told the story, when the church started in Europe, its members were persecuted, tortured, and even killed because they refused to follow the faith of the prince.

An American colonist named William Penn invited the members of the church to come to his colony to freely practice their faith.

In 2005, some members of the state House of Representatives would debase that legacy of welcoming immigrants to the Commonwealth. HB 2089 would designate english as the "official" language of PA and, thus, would rip out the welcome mat from under the feet of those who emigrate to the U.S. and choose PA as their home.

Here is the statement from Larry Frankel, ACLU-PA legislative director:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania opposes House Bill 2089, which seeks to establish English as the official language of the Commonwealth. We think that this legislation is unconstitutional, will lead to costly litigation, and will hurt Pennsylvania's ability to attract innovative companies and good jobs.

A small number of other states have passed English only bills. Courts in three states - Alaska, Arizona and Oklahoma - have found these laws to be unconstitutional because they violate the free speech rights of citizens and state employees. There is no reason to think that Pennsylvania's venture down this path will lead to a different result.

Passage of this legislation will lead to costly litigation. Even if it were deemed to be constitutional, there will be numerous lawsuits arising from arbitrary denial of governmental services to domestic violence victims and individuals needing police protection or health care because such individuals have limited English proficiency. Adopting English as the official language of the Commonwealth will not lead to a reduction in paperwork or the size of government. Rather, it will spawn a new generation of lawsuits over the enforcement of the law.

Finally, passage of this legislation will send a bad message to international businesses thinking of locating facilities here in Pennsylvania. Why would such companies want to be in a state where there is an official expression of hostility to people who don't speak English? Why would such companies choose to come here when they could locate in another state, where the government is open to people who speak other languages? This bill will hurt Pennsylvania's ability to create jobs.

Rep. Babette Josephs is a leader in opposing this bill, and here is her press release. Also, The (Allentown) Morning Call wrote an editorial on the legislation last Thursday.

Things that make you go "hmmmm" Part III

Not to belabor the point, but the New York Times published an interesting article on Friday (11/4) about the Thomas More Law Center's attempts to generate a case on intelligent design...

"In May 2000, Robert Muise, one of the [Thomas More] lawyers, traveled to Charleston, W.Va., to persuade the school board there to buy the intelligent design textbook "Of Pandas and People" and teach it in science class."

Mr. Muise told the board in Charleston that it would undoubtedly be sued if the district taught intelligent design, but that the center would mount a defense at no cost."

And, it seems that they have plans to take their ID show on the road. We will stay tuned...

Next steps

Several of you have asked what happens next in the intelligent design case. Both sides have two more weeks to submit "proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law," which basically means how each side thinks the judge should rule and why.

During these two weeks, the defendants' and the plaintiffs' attorneys will also be working with the judge to determine which exhibits will be admissible as evidence and therefore made part of the permanent record of the trial. The big dispute is over two newspaper articles our side introduced about the June 14 board meeting, both of which stated that the word "creationism" was used at the meeting. The record of the trial will be closed after that.

Following the submissions of proposed findings, each side has one week to respond to the other (putting us at November 25). After that, the judge will begin deliberating. He stated at the trial on Friday that he will do his best to make a ruling by the end of the year or early January at the absolute latest. That's actually a fairly quick turn-around time for a case this complex.

The judge will be looking how the Lemon test applies. The purpose of the Lemon test (based on a 1971 US Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman) is to determine when a law has the effect of establishing religion. This Morning Call article gives a pretty good summary and explanation of the Lemon test and its application to this case.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I laughed, I cried; it was better than "Cats"

Walking into the courtroom on Friday, it was clear that this was not just another day of trial. Everyone seemed to be dressed up in honor of the significance of the occasion (even irreverent York Daily Record columnist Mike Argento wore a sport coat, as someone next to me pointed out). Some of our lawyers appeared almost giddy, and several confessed that, despite the exhaustion of working almost around the clock for six weeks, they were sad to see it end. Few of the legal team live in Harrisburg, and so most stayed in apartments for the duration. Over the many late nights, gallons of coffee, and the 3 am runs to Kinkos, the team had developed a close bond.

As our clients filed into the courtroom and greeted their lawyers, it was clear that a strong bond had developed between the two as well. Repeatedly, plaintiffs talked about how "brilliant" the attorneys were, and how grateful they were to them. The legal team expressed admiration for the courage of our clients, and asked them to autograph copies of the complaint. At the end of the day, the plaintiffs' lawyers and their clients had plans to gather together to decompress from the trial and undoubtedly swap stories.

But enough of the touchy-feely stuff. The morning began with Dr. Scott Minnich and yes, more testimony about "bacterial flagellum" and "irreducible complexity" (two phrases I suspect that most people in the court room will be happy never to hear again). Dr. Minnich testified about how it was a risk in his field to come out as an intelligent design proponent. Plaintiff's attorney Steve Harvey replied, "That's because the entire scientific community rejects intelligent design, doesn't it?" Minnich answered, "That's correct."

Later Steve Harvey asked Minnich whether it was possible that there was more than one designer, or possibly an "evil designer" and a "good designer." Minnich replied that that was a theology question. He stated that the intelligent design theory only takes one to the point that there is some kind of intelligent designer, after that, "theology or philosophy takes over."

After the lunch break, the judge and the lawyers discussed in minute detail which exhibits would be admitted into the record. It was clear that spectators in the packed courtroom were eager to get through this portion in order to get to the good stuff: closing arguments.

Eric Rothschild presented a stirring summation of all that the court had witnessed over the past six weeks: how creationism had been discussed at board meetings, and how certain board members had denied that, despite overwhelming evidence and testimony to the contrary; the fact that intelligent design is really creationism in disguise, with no real scientific component; that the biology teachers repeatedly resisted the idea of teaching intelligent design; and that certain board members had tried to hide the source of the donated Of Pandas and People books. (Rather than trying to include a lengthy summary here, I recommend you read his entire closing.)

Patrick Gillen, who had missed the morning session due to illness, gave the defendants' closing argument. He denied that the board members had been "religious co-conspirators," stating that the primary motivation of the school board had been "to provide a good science education" for Dover's students. He repeatedly said that intelligent design "may be the next great paradigm of science," and the students would have an advantage by finding out about this new paradigm earlier than most. He stated that then-president Alan Bonsell was not scared of evolution, he was scared of "science taught as dogma."

Gillen stated that "the science teachers were not trained in intelligent design," so it "doesn't make sense" that they were qualified to say that it wasn't science. He went on to say that they should rely on someone with a PhD, like Michael Behe, who believes that intelligent design is science. He also pointed out that the school board, whose members were elected by the community, had the final say in a dispute with teachers over curriculum. The board has "the right and the duty to exercise its judgment."

He repeatedly brought up that it's "not the case that mere mention of creationism is illegal in this country," and that the personal beliefs of a few board members did not mean that that was what motivated the board to introduce intelligent design into the curriculum. He pointed out that as a result of this controversy, the library had received donations of many books, both pro-ID and anti-ID. "Now how can adding books to the library be a bad thing?" he asked. He concluded by stating that the four-paragraph statement about evolution and intelligent design "does not by any reasonable measure" threaten the establishment clause.

After closing arguments, Judge Jones gave some very moving remarks that had at least one of our clients close to tears. He saluted the "solemnity, dignity, and respect" shown by the spectators throughout the six weeks, befitting a trial of such importance. He acknowledged the press and the fact that it was "not easy to do what you do."

He saved his highest praise, appropriately, for the lawyers and their staff. "Watching you...made me aware of why I became a lawyer and why I became a judge," said Judge Jones. He repeatedly stressed how the two sides had treated each other with collegiality and professionalism throughout the trial. He told the spectators that they had witnesses some of the "best presentations and finest lawyers I have ever had the privilege to see."

"It was a privilege to have each and every one of you before me," he concluded.

He asked if either side had any thing else to say. The defendants' attorney Patrick Gillen noted that the day was the fortieth day of the trial, and that night was the fortieth night. He asked if the judge had done that on purpose.

The judge said with a smile that it was "not by design." The entire courtroom broke out in laughter and then applause.

And with that, the biggest trial on evolution in two decades came to a close.

Submitted by Sara Mullen, Associate Director, ACLU of PA

Closing argument, etc.

While you're waiting for the post on the final day of trial, here's some interesting stuff:

Text of closing argument, as presented by Eric Rothschild

A fascinating article from the NY Times about how the Thomas More Center had spent years trying to find a school board willing to teach intelligent design and use the ID textbook, Of Pandas and People.

Friday, November 04, 2005

U of Idaho maintains its reputation

As we await the report on today's proceedings, kudos to "anonymous" in the comments section for pointing this out: A letter from Dr. Timothy White, president of the University of Idaho (Dr. Minnich's employer), which outlines the university's position on evolution and intelligent design.

Also, The Panda's Thumb has a few notes worth a look from yesterday's action. There was a tense exchange between Judge Jones and defense counsel Robert Muise during Dr. Minnich's testimony, and Robert Gentry, a defense witness in the McLean v. Arkansas case, was in town for a talk, a press conference, and to observe the trial.

Bacterial Flagellum II: Rise of the Machines

The bacterial flagellum is back! No, make it stop!

Thursday afternoon at CR2 the defense called their final witness, Dr. Scott Minnich, professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho, fellow at the Discovery Institute, advocate of intelligent design, and big fan of bacterial flagellum.

Echoing much of what Dr. Michael Behe said two weeks ago- and I really mean echo, he quoted Behe at one point- Dr. Minnich insisted that ID is science and offered the following:

"We infer design when we see parts that appear to be arranged for a purpose."

"The appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming."

"These are highly sophisticated systems, and when you see a machine in any other context, you assume there's an engineer around."

"We don't have a Darwinian explain these machines."

"It's consistent with the empirical evidence."

And my personal favorite, "We can't figure this stuff out so it must have been done by God, err, the designer." (OK, he didn't actually say that.)

Dr. Minnich gave evolution it's due and admitted that "it's critical in biology to have a firm foundation in evolution." He went on to testify that the Miller Levine Biology textbook is best used as a primary text with Of Pandas and People as a "supplement".

Our team started their cross examination just before the court recessed for the day and will pick up with their questioning this morning. Closing arguments are expected in the afternoon.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Closing arguments

We've had a lot of inquiries about attending closing arguments. Barring surprises, closing arguments will take place tomorrow afternoon, after the cross examination of Dr. Scott Minnich. Here is the Middle District's website on attending the proceedings.

A "Living Word driven" district

So it wasn't just biology that the Dover board had in their sights. Social studies was Public Enemy Number Two!

This morning's proceedings at CR2 (courtroom 2) featured two Dover Area School District employees. Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa continued his testimony, and later the defense called biology teacher Robert Linker to the stand.

Baksa talked about his involvement in the curriculum change. After the board passed the curriculum change in October 2004, Baksa received an e-mail from social studies teacher Brad Neal in which Mr. Neal sarcastically asked if the school was changing from a "standards-driven district" to a "Living Word driven" district and went on to speculate that his teaching of judicial history might be in jeopardy. Baksa responded, "Be careful what you wish for," and referred to a book called The Myth of Separation by David Barton that Baksa had received from Superintendent Richard Nilsen, which Nilsen had received from board member Alan Bonsell. The book argues against separation of church and state and calls separation "absurd".

Baksa also discussed the drafting of the statement. In the first paragraph, the teachers had requested to include, "Darwin's theory of evolution continues to be the dominant scientific explanation of the origin of species." This portion was eliminated by the board. The teachers also recommended the following in the second paragraph: "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, there is a significant amount of evidence that supports the theory, although it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered." Baksa eliminated the "significant amount of evidence" portion of the above because he felt that the board would not want it in the statement.

Mr. Linker testified about his involvement in the curriculum change. He noted that after he and other teachers started meeting with administrators on the topic in the fall of 2003, both he and bio teacher Jen Miller stopped using certain tools to teach evolution, including Discovery Channel videos and an interactive timeline on the development of species.

Proceedings continue this afternoon.

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA

Sign up for Dover trial verdict announcement

We'll be sending out an email to interested folks whenever there's an update on the intelligent design case (such as when the judge makes his ruling). If you're already signed up for our general list-serv, then you'll receive the updates automatically. If you'd like to sign up only for the Dover trial updates, go to our sign-up page, enter your email address, and check ONLY the box marked "Kitzmiller v. Dover Decision Alert" at the bottom of the list.

Blog success goes to staff's head; they refuse to give it up

As you know, tomorrow is the last day of the soap opera known as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We've had a blast bringing you the latest on the trial, and we've thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments. We're thrilled that so many of you have been following the case (we've been averaging over 1000 unique visitors a day on the blog).

Unfortunately, the teaching of intelligent design is just one of the many threats to civil liberties and civil rights we're fighting. We've decided to keep our blog going even after the trial, covering a wide range of topics, including threats to academic freedom, more "religion over science" issues such as federal funding for abstinence-only sex ed programs in public schools, and attacks on free speech.

We'd also love to hear from you about what you'd like on Speaking Freely in the future, so please post your suggestions!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Googling for I.D.

Dover Area School Board President Sheila Harkins still doesn't "have a way to describe intelligent design."

According to Harkins' testimony today, she "knew a little bit" about intelligent design in October 2004 when she and her fellow board members introduced the notion into the ninth grade biology curriculum at Dover Area School District. And today, she knows little more.

Harkins, the second defense witness during Wednesday's testimony, said that she still doesn't have "a firm explanation of intelligent design." What she did learn about intelligent design was mostly gleaned from the Internet. "I Googled," she explained when her attorney Patrick Gillen asked how Harkins tried to acquaint herself with intelligent design. Her answer elicited laughter from the audience and a smile from Judge Jones.

Hakins testified from about 9:30 a.m. until 1:50 p.m., with a break for lunch.

Wednesday's first witness was Dover Area School Board member Alan Bonsell, whose testimony was continuing from Monday. Defense attorney Patrick Gillen led Bonsell through the 2002 and 2003 board retreats, and had Bonsell testify about whether he advocated for prayer in the schools at those retreats. His answer was no. Gillen also asked Bonsell if he had advocated for changing the social studies curriculum at those retreats. Bonsell said no.

Then Gillen turned to questioning Bonsell about the Dover Area School District February 2005 newsletter issued to District residents and a quote by Anthony Flew. [Text of the quote in the newsletter: "[DNA] has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved. My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads." -Anthony Flew (world famous atheist who now admits the universe appears to have an intelligent design).] Bonsell said that the quote was added to the newsletter to show that intelligent design isn't religious; nor is evolutionary theory necessarily religious.

At the end of Gillen's questioning, Bonsell attempted to explain some previous inconsistencies in his testimony. He said that in January 2005 - the time of his first deposition - he had never been deposed, had never been part of a federal lawsuit, and was trying to answer as truthfully as he could despite his nervousness.

Plaintiffs' attorney Stephen G. Harvey cross-examined Bonsell about the January 2005 deposition by introducing Bonsell's second deposition transcript. In plaintiffs' second deposition of Bonsell, in April 2005, Bonsell was asked, "[I]f there was anything that you testified to in that prior deposition that you would like to change or modify today." Bonsell answered: "I don’t believe so." Despite an objection by Gillen, Jones allowed the introduction of Bonsell's answer in the April 2005 deposition.

The third defense witness of the day was Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa. It was Baksa's third day of testimony; he had previously testified on October 21 and 28. Baksa testified at some length about the different versions of the curriculum language for the ninth grade biology class and the attempts to reconcile the science teachers' desires with the school board members' desires.

A notable portion of Baksa's testimony was his description of his visit to Messiah College on March 26, 2003. On that date, Baksa attended a symposium on creationism at Messiah College. Reading from his handwritten notes, Baksa testified that at that time, he learned of Phil Johnson and intelligent design. Baksa testified that the Superintendent, Dr. Richard Nilsen, sent him to the symposium, though he did not know why.

Baksa's cross examination by plaintiffs' attorney Eric J. Rothschild will continue Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 9:15 a.m. Closing arguments are expected on Friday, November 4, 2005.

Submitted by Paula Knudsen, staff attorney, ACLU of Pennsylvania

More about the transcripts than you probably want to know

For all of you inquiring minds, we thought we'd explain the transcript situation.

All of the transcripts come from the court reporter. They are sent to the volunteer law firm who is working on the case with us, Pepper Hamilton. For some reason, the people at Pepper can open all of the transcripts, but when they forward them on to us and to the National Center for Science Education, some of them are completely unreadable to us and some are sporadically garbled.(NCSE is also posting the transcripts on their website, and they are missing the same transcripts that we are.) When the trial is over, we will work with Pepper to obtain the missing transcripts, but until then, the legal team is focused on the trial itself (and we can't blame them, as much as we are dying to read Buckingham's transcript).

We have been posting the transcripts within a day of when they are forwarded to us. Unfortunately, we have absolutely no control over when they are sent to us. We are not selectively posting transcripts (which is certainly indicated by the fact that the transcripts from some of our best witnesses are the ones that have been damaged).

Later today we will post a revised transcript page that will list which days are actually missing, as opposed to those that were only half days of the trial.

Here is the missing Day 18 AM transcript.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Bonsell & Geesey Transcripts

Halloween may be over, but we have some treats for you!

From Friday
Transcript Day 17 AM & PM Heather Geesey

From Monday
Transcript Day 18 PM Alan Bonsell, including his exchange with Judge Jones at the end of the day

Bonsell will be on the stand again on Wednesday. Should be interesting!

The ID controversy rages throughout the world

Well, not everyone thinks it's a controversy.

"Last week a coalition representing 70,000 Australian scientists and teachers likened it to the flat-earth theory."

Kosky rules intelligent design a faith
(The Age, Australia, 10/29/05)

While in the Czech republic...

"Hundreds of supporters of "intelligent design" theory gathered in Prague in the first such conference in Eastern Europe, but Czech scholars boycotted the event insisting it had no scientific credence."

Scientists gather to talk about intelligent design
(The Manila Times, Czech Republic, 10/26/05)

Closer to home, the debate has arisen in several communities across the country, as school board election day grows near.

Candidates not certain over intelligent design
(Southwest Virginia Enterprise, 10/25/05)

Intelligent design theory invades forum among board of education candidates
(Danbury News Times, CT, 10/26/05)

Leave it to Cleaver

These events were a bit overshadowed by Alan Bonsell, but yesterday opened with testimony by former school board member Jane Cleaver, a resident of Dover and long-time proprietor of the 5 and 10 cent store. Ms. Cleaver was appointed to the board in the summer of 2002 and voted to implement the curriculum change at the October 18th, 2004 meeting.

This white-haired spunky woman testified that she is an "independent person and not a rubber stamp for anyone" and charmingly referred to "intelligence design." But, despite her charms, Ms. Cleaver's testimony raised some questions....

She shared with us that "something was lost when prayer left the schools." She had been an advocate for a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day and for requiring a pledge of allegiance that included "under God." To this end, she campaigned from church to church.

She was present for the June meetings, but has no recollection of Mr. Buckingham's now infamous "2000 years" and "laced with Darwinism" comments. And, since she hasn't read the papers since 2002, she would not have seen the comments reported.

Mrs. Cleaver was out of the picture for much of the 2004 discussion of the biology book and curriculum change as she was in Florida for the August and September meetings (and possibly July). Mrs. Cleaver first learned about Of Pandas and People on October 2nd from her sister-in- law who informed her of "a big controversy" about the book. So, she obtained a copy from Mr. Buckingham before the October 4th meeting. She skimmed it and found "no mention of the Bible, of God or of creationism" and, thus, deemed it appropriate.

She testified that neither she nor anyone on the board had done a study to assess whether the book was suitable for high school age students, nor had anyone researched whether the science in this 1993 book was current. [Dover biology teacher Jennifer Miller has testified that she did a readability study. She found that the book was of too high a level for high school students and that the science was dubious.]

Cleaver also agreed that all people who spoke at the Oct 18th meeting with science background spoke against the book and that no board member ever "explained or expressed how the change in curriculum would improve it."

In her opinion, the book was only there as a reference and the teachers would not be teaching it. "I just think that students should hear about other theories."

She remembers that Mrs. Spahr said the teachers didn't want to teach ID because ID was creationism. "I disagreed" she said, "to me ID is just another science text or another theory."

"You didn't really understand ID, just knew it was another theory?" she was asked, yesterday. She agreed.

Submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of PA

Things that make you go "hmmmm" Part II

Back on October 20, we wrote a post titled "Things that make you go hmmmm" that asked why the Dover Area School District would choose the Thomas More Center, a self-described advocate for bringing religion (specifically Christianity) into the public square, if they believed intelligent design was not religious. Several people questioned whether this would be admissible in a court of law. Well, we have our answer: yes. It was brought up yesterday in cross-examination of Alan Bonsell. Here's a link to the York Daily Record's coverage of the issue: Plaintiffs ask: Why choose Thomas More?

Fireworks in court yesterday

When Patrick Gillen, of the Thomas More Law Center, gave his opening statement, he referred to School Board President Alan Bonsell: "He had an interest in creationism. He wondered whether it could be discussed in the classroom."

Yesterday, Bonsell shared with the court his personal belief: that "creationism is the literal interpretation of the Bible." He stated, "I don't believe that the earth is billions of years old. I would say thousands; that's my personal religious belief." He added that, while he believes in microevolution, he does not think that humans have evolved from other species.

According to the minutes taken by Dover's school board superintendent, Bonsell brought up creationism twice for discussion at board retreats. Bonsell does not recall this. "I must have brought it. I don't remember; I wish I did, but I don't remember every bringing it up." "Obviously, I said the word at two board meetings," based on Dr. Nilsen's notes, "but I never brought the theory forward."

Bonsell denied that the word creationism was ever brought up at the June 2004 school board meetings, despite being confronted with testimony from Assistant Superintendent Michael Baksa and science teacher Bertha Spahr that stated the contrary. Bonsell blamed this perception on the press, which he repeatedly stated "mix words up." "They kept saying teaching instead of making aware, saying creationism instead of intelligent design." He blamed the press for printing quotes from school board member William Buckingham in June ("2000 years ago, someone died on a cro..."). Bonsell attributed those quotes to a discussion of the pledge of allegiance.

Plaintiff's counsel Steve Harvey, of Pepper Hamilton, began his cross examination with a projection of an $850 check that Buckingham had collected from his church for the the purchase of the Pandas books for the school. Buckingham testified that he handed this check to Bonsell to give to his father, Donald Bonsell, who actually bought the books.

In a November 4th school board meeting, former board member Larry Snook asked where the donated copies of Of Pandas and People had come from. None of the board members responded. When asked about this yesterday by plaintiff's counsel Steve Harvey, Bonsell said "I don't recall." Harvey asked again, "You didn't provide information." Bonsell said, "No."

In his January deposition, Bonsell was asked again who donated the books. Harvey read from Bonsell's testimony: "Who donated the books?" "They wanted to remain anonymous…I knew of one donor, Donald Bonsell." Harvey then asked, "You never mentioned anything about getting a check from Mr. Buckingham?"

Mr. Bonsell replied, "No."

Testimony was barely concluded when Judge Jones announced that he was "going to exercise [his] prerogative." Instead of sending the courtroom off into the Halloween evening, as expected, the judge asked for a copy of the deposition transcript.
The judge began questioning Bonsell.

"Why did you tell Mr. Rothschild" that you didn't know where the books came from? "You knew you had gotten a check" from Mr. Buckingham. "Why was your father involved? Why didn't Mr. Buckingham give you the money directly?"

Judge Jones answered his own question: "He was not donating the books; he was buying them with money with from Mr. Buckingham's church."

Mr. Bonsell stammered some answers, which did not seem to satisfy the judge, who left looking stern and red in the face.

Wednesday's testimony features board member Sheila Harkins. Harkins met with Alan Bonsell, William Buckingham, Superintendent Nilsen and the Thomas More attorneys the night before their January depositions. The latter three witnesses have all had strikingly similar stories when asked if creationism was ever mentioned in a school board meeting and in suggesting that Mr. Buckingham's oft-quoted statements were made during an earlier meeting. All denied in deposition that they knew from whom the books were donated. We will see if Harkins shares a similar tale....

Other coverage of yesterday's court activity:
York Daily Record
Judge grills Dover official
Mike Argento's commentary on the grilling:
In Dover suit, a day to sweat

Patriot News
Judge grills Dover witness who 'misspoke' on money

Philadelphia Inquirer
Intelligent-design judge lashes out

Submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of PA