HARRISBURG, Pa. — A school board member who voted to include "intelligent design" in a high-school biology curriculum testified Friday that she never independently researched the concept and relied on the opinions of two fellow board members to make her decision.
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Heather Geesey, a Dover Area School Board member, said she came to believe intelligent design was a scientific theory based on the recommendations of Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham — both members of the board's curriculum committee.
"They said it was a scientific thing," said Geesey, who added that "it wasn't my job" to learn more about intelligent design because she didn't serve on the curriculum committee.
Geesey testified at the end of the fifth week of a landmark federal trial that could determine whether intelligent design can be mentioned in public school science classes.
The board in October 2004 voted to require 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.
Intelligent design supporters argue that evolution cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms, attributing those phenomena to an unidentified intelligent cause.
Eight families who are suing the school district argue that the board's policy promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the families, noted in his cross-examination of Geesey that the policy was adopted over the objections of Dover High School's science teachers.
"The only people in the school district with a scientific background were opposed to intelligent design ... and you ignored them?" he asked.
"Yes," Geesey said.
Earlier Friday, two freelance newspaper reporters testified that they accurately reported on school board meetings in which creationism was discussed, even though they did not directly quote any board members using the term.
Heidi Bernhard-Bubb of The York Dispatch and Joseph Maldonado of the York Daily Record/Sunday News both said creationism was discussed at school board meetings they covered in June 2004. In pretrial depositions, school board members have denied or said they did not remember making statements about creationism during the meetings.
The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to conclude Nov. 4.
The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the ACLU 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.
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