1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 9/29/2005 9:12:33 PM ET 2005-09-30T01:12:33

A school board changed its biology curriculum to include a reference to "intelligent design" without consulting teachers or community members, a witness testified Thursday in a trial over whether the idea has a place in public schools.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Play nice: 4 ways to teach kindness and raise kids who aren't jerks

      Every parent has probably said, “play nicely” or “be kind to your sister.” And most of us agree that we want to raise cari...

    2. Natalie and Jenna: We can be the next Thelma and Louise — 'minus the ending'
    3. Renee Zellweger selling Connecticut country home
    4. 5 things I wish my boss knew about fatherhood
    5. Tying the knot

Carol Brown, a former Dover Area School District board member who opposed the curriculum change and resigned in protest after it was made Oct. 18, said teachers were not aware of the proposal until the day of the vote.

The board departed from its custom of involving a curriculum advisory committee that includes members of the public, Brown said. Usually that board mulls curriculum changes and makes recommendations.

"The normal procedures were not followed," she said. "It was unheard of for all of the stakeholders not to be involved in any change in the curriculum."

Constitutional debate
Eight families are trying to have a reference to intelligent design removed from the curriculum, arguing that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state. They say it in effect promotes the Bible's view of creation.

Under the policy, approved by a 6-3 board vote, teachers read a brief statement about intelligent design to students before classes on evolution. It says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that life on Earth is the product of an unidentified intelligent force, and that natural selection cannot fully explain the development of different species from common ancestors.

Brown also testified Thursday that intelligent design is not science and does not belong in science classes. She added, however, that she thought it could be discussed as part of a comparative religion class.

"Biology is a physical science. It is based on teaching our students about the physical senses, the world around them," she said. "Intelligent design is a matter of faith."

Motivations for policy change
During his cross-examination of Brown, Patrick Gillen, a lawyer for the school board, questioned Brown's contention that board members approved the policy for religious reasons. He noted that one of the board members who voted for it, Sheila Harkins, supports the teaching of evolution.

"I just find it odd that you think you know why people voted the way they did," Gillen told Brown.

Brown served on the board with her husband, Jeff, who also resigned after the Oct. 18 meeting. Jeff Brown testified that the board failed to consider the cost and the long-term ramifications of changing the biology curriculum.

"We had never passed anything without going over the financial costs in excruciating detail," he said. "On this one occasion, they did not want to hear any discussion of the possible costs."

The plaintiffs are being represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and the school district by the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.

New campaign launched
In a related development Thursday, a group of scientists, legal scholars and clergy announced a campaign to defend the teaching of evolution in public schools.

The Campaign to Defend the Constitution released a report identifying Dover as one of 10 communities and states where it contends evolution is being undermined and sent a letter to the nation's governors urging them to oppose the inclusion of intelligent design in science curricula.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

    Play nice: 4 ways to teach kindness and raise kids who aren't jerks

    7/24/2014 7:05:14 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T19:05:14
  1. Watch the full ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer: What we couldn’t show on TV

    “Fifty Shades of Grey” fans, you’ve come to the right place. 

    7/24/2014 12:30:07 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T12:30:07
  2. video ‘Fifty Shades’ stars give first look at steamy film

    video Stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson offer TODAY viewers a sneak peek at the highly anticipated film. When Savannah Guthrie told Dornan that viewers had asked if he'd do the interview shirtless, he said, “I would have considered it.” 

    7/24/2014 5:22:44 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T17:22:44
  3. Not a date movie: Why ‘Fifty Shades’ a girls’ night hit

    Even though the film is opening on Valentine's Day — the biggest date night of the year — women are likely to turn the movie into a social event.

    7/24/2014 1:22:41 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T13:22:41
  4. Universal Pictures
  1. Air Algerie Flight AH5017 plane wreckage found   

    General Gilbert Diendere says the wreckage of Air Algerie Flight AH5017, which went missing with 116 people on board Thursday, has been found in Mali. 

    7/24/2014 2:47:05 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T14:47:05
  1. 5 things I wish my boss knew about fatherhood

    7/24/2014 6:28:13 PM +00:00 2014-07-24T18:28:13