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Discovery Institute Statement to El Tejon School Board About Teaching Intelligent Design and Evolution

This is a summary of the statement made by Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin during the period for public comment at the El Tejon School Board on Friday, January 13, 2006. This statement was made during their 2 pm session, just before they went into closed deliberation as to what action to take regarding the "Philosophy of design" course. As Casey did not type out a written statement before speaking to the board, this essentially represents his recollection of statements as made to the El Tejon School Board.

Summary of Statement to El Tejon School Board, January 13, 2006 By Casey Luskin, ESQ Program Officer, Public Policy and Legal Affairs, Discovery Institute

Greetings, thank you for letting me speak. My name is Casey Luskin and I am an attorney representing the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is a think tank based out of Seattle, Washington that represents a large number of scientists who do scientific research into intelligent design.

I am a California licensed attorney and you probably recall that I sent a letter to Superintendent Wight earlier this week regarding our position on the course. After speaking with some people and learning more information about this course, Discovery is very concerned about the legal standing of this course.

From what I can tell, this course was originally formulated as if it would promote young earth or Biblical creationism as scientific fact. Although I understand that the course has since been reformulated to remove the creationist material, a course description was sent out to students around December 1st which described this course as promoting young earth or Biblical creationism as scientific fact. This is very concerning because courts have made it clear--specifically the U.S. Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard--that young earth creationism is unconstitutional to teach as fact in public schools.

Intelligent design is very different from young earth creationism. We at the Discovery Institute believe that intelligent design is constitutional to teach as a science. I understand that Americans United probably disagrees with that. But the fact is that this course originally mixed up intelligent design with the young earth creationist viewpoint. I want you to know that we support your efforts to present different views about biological origins in this philosophy course. We also applaud your efforts to remove the legally problematic creationist materials from the course. But the fact of the matter is that even if this course has been changed and improved, its past history as originally having been formulated to promote Biblical creationism as scientific fact makes this case legally problematic. Unless you get a very sympathetic judge, this course will be struck down as unconstitutional because of its problematic history.

Discovery believes that the Dover case was wrongly decided, and that it is constitutional to teach about intelligent design in a science or a philosophy course. However, given the history of this course, this course threatens to become a dangerous legal precedent which could threaten the teaching of intelligent design on the national level. The young earth creationist history of this course places it on extremely shaky legal ground. I'm not here to tell you that you should like the law, but this is what the law is, and this course is extremely problematic and is on shaky ground.

There is a legal train coming at you and we can see it coming down the tracks. Unfortunately this course was not formulated properly in the beginning, and students were told it would promote young earth creationism as fact. Thus, the only remedy at this point to avoid creating a dangerous legal precedent is to simply cancel the course.

But I do not want you to think that you are without options. Cancel the course for this year, and then if you want to teach it again next year, take your time, and consult people from all sides to construct a course that everyone agrees on. You could consult people from Americans United, you could consult the Discovery Institute, you could consult other experts, and you could create a philosophy course which people on all sides agree would be acceptable. Then you could re-teach the philosophy course on origins next year.

But if you do not cancel this course, and if you let this lawsuit go forward, you are going to lose and there will be a dangerous legal precedent set which could threaten the teaching of intelligent design on the national level. Such a decision would also threaten the scientific research of many scientists who support intelligent design.

Because of the young earth creationist history of this course, this course is not legally defensible and it should be cancelled. Thank you.