1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 10/20/2005 9:05:51 PM ET 2005-10-21T01:05:51

The superintendent of a school district that is defending its decision to include "intelligent design" in its biology curriculum testified Thursday that the school board sought legal advice beforehand and never discussed creationism when it adopted the policy.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Savannah's honeymoon dispatch: Letting it all hang out on the best vacation of my life

      Who goes on a honeymoon five weeks after getting married? I'm doing all kinds of things slightly out of order.

    2. Lupita Nyong'o is People magazine's Most Beautiful person
    3. Mall adds 'fast lane' after girl, 10, complains about slow shoppers
    4. Alan Cumming thought his dancing days were behind him before return to 'Cabaret'
    5. Go Hoda! She’s one of People’s Most Beautiful

Before the Dover Area School Board approved the curriculum change a year ago, its attorney researched whether the change was legal and said in a report to the board that he "found no case law either way," Superintendent Richard Nilsen said.

"I have reason to believe that the board did not think they were involved in illegal activity," Nilsen said.

Nilsen testified as a witness for the defense during the fourth week of a landmark federal trial that could determine whether intelligent design can be discussed in a public-school biology class.

Intelligent-design supporters argue that life on Earth was the product of an intelligent force, and that natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the development of highly complex life forms.

Dover's policy requires students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and it refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information about the concept.

Eight families who are suing to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum argue that the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional ban on the state establishment of religion.

Under questioning by Patrick Gillen, an attorney defending the school board in the lawsuit, Nilsen said board members had not discussed creationism with him before June 2004, when school board member Bill Buckingham complained that a biology book recommended by the administration was "laced with Darwinism."

Nilsen said he didn't understand Buckingham's complaint.

"All biology books are going to be full of Darwin's theory. I didn't understand his point," Nilsen said.

The trial began Sept. 26 and could last through early November. Dick M. Carpenter II, an education professor at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was scheduled to testify as an expert witness for the defense on Friday morning. Before taking up his current post, Carpenter served as an education policy analyst for Focus on the Family, and in that capacity was involved in issues ranging from charter schools to Christian perspectives on homosexuality.

Nilsen was expected to resume his testimony Friday afternoon.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented 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.

This report includes additional information from MSNBC.com.

© 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. Lupita Nyong’o is People magazine’s Most Beautiful person

    The Oscar winner with the perfect smile and the style to match beams from a cover that promises "her inspiring story.

    4/23/2014 11:54:41 AM +00:00 2014-04-23T11:54:41
  2. video Actress tells Savannah: Oscar win has opened doors

    video After a tremendous year for the actress, including winning an Oscar for her breakout role in “12 years a Slave,” and now being selected as People magazine’s Most Beautiful person, Lupita Nyong’o reflects on her rising fame in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

    4/23/2014 12:35:32 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T12:35:32
  3. slideshow Her flawless looks: See Lupita’s colorful wardrobe

    slideshow Bright yellow, sky blue, rich red, shimmering gold — there's not a color that the fashionably adventurous Oscar-winning actress hasn't conquered.

    4/23/2014 1:40:41 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T13:40:41
  4. Reuters; AP
  1. Meadowhall, Yorkshire

    Mall adds 'fast lane' after girl, 10, complains about slow shoppers

    4/23/2014 2:48:06 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T14:48:06
  1. Annie Leibovitz

    Top fashion moms design collection to fight infant AIDS

    4/23/2014 2:01:51 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T14:01:51
  1. Nbc Nbc Nbc / Trae Patton/NBC

    Ousted 'Voice' singer: I'm '500 steps ahead of where I would have been'

    4/23/2014 2:22:38 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T14:22:38
  1. Courtesy of Savannah Guthrie

    Savannah’s honeymoon dispatch: Letting it hang out on the best vacation ever

    4/23/2014 10:56:55 AM +00:00 2014-04-23T10:56:55