Outlawing Dover

I get Bob Parks ‘What’s new’ newsletter in my mailbox every Friday. (Note: you can subscribe here. That’s not a nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing. It’s a do-it-or-I’ll-go-find-a-cricket-bat thing. Just so you know.)

Anyway. What to my wondering eyes should appear in the most recent newsletter? 


The nation was distracted this week: the leaked Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, a terrifying new report on global warming, continued high gas prices, a White House lobbying scandal that grew from “a few” contacts with Jack Abramoff to 485, not to mention the news that two men have stepped forward claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.  That allowed the House to quietly pass H.R. 2679, the “Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006,” with scarcely a mention in the media.
The bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering legal costs in any lawsuit based on the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, which of course only happens when the court finds the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights have been denied.  The Senate is expected to pass a companion bill, S. 3696.  Congress cannot simply abridge the Bill of Rights.  Maybe they think the Supreme Court is stacked.  Or maybe it’s the election.

After cleaning the coffee off my monitor and extracting large quantity of liquid from my nose, I started thinking. Was this just a Republican sneak-something-through-Congress-without-anyone-noticing? Were do you look? Well the Washington Post has a really nice database of votes*.

Going to the H.R. 2679 bill we find the following breakdown: 

     Republicans        Opposed: 6       Approved: 218        Not voting: 6
     Democrats          Opposed: 166   Approved: 26          Not voting: 6
     Democrats          Opposed: 1        Approved: 0

Twenty-six Democrats voted in favor of this! Excuse me?!

Who were these people pandering to the religious right?! WP gives us the list.

John Barrow
Marion Berry
Dan Boren
Allen Boyd
Dennis Cardoza
Jim Costa
Bud Cramer
Henry Cuellar
Lincoln Davis
Bart Gordon
Stephanie Herseth
Rubén Hinojosa
Daniel Lipinski
Jim Marshall
Jim Matheson
Mike McIntyre
Charles Melancon
Solomon Ortiz
Collin Peterson
Nick Rahall
Mike Ross
John Salazar
David Scott
Ike Skelton
John Spratt
Gene Taylor

This is really important. Kitzmiller  and the ACLU could not have litigated in Dover without being able to claim damages. If this law stands, we need to get ready for a major push to get Creationists, ID-iots and Controversials** onto school boards. There would be next to no judicial defense at that point. If your congressperson is listed above, please write and complain about the vote. Please write to your Senator expressing your displeasure in S. 3696.

Remember, Dover cost the school district several million dollars in damages. These damages were only to cover the costs the plaintiffs incurred. No one made money in Dover. The DASB listened to the Thomas Moore Law Center who promised to do the case ‘for free’ (probably without mentioning the pesky damages thing) and lost. Indeed had the school board listened to their normal counsel, the entire thing would never have come to court. If the board had passed something marginally legal, normal counsel had represented the district and the district still lost – the case would have been covered by insurance. As things went, the old board was voted out and the new board was saddled with a huge bill. The people responsible for the debacle are long gone.

In conclusion, the problem wasn’t the plaintiffs, the problem was with the school board. I’ll just quote Judge Jones’ decision (pdf, 139 pages, a must read).

 The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an
alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources. [emphasis in original]

Remember, if you outlaw the first amendment, only outlaws will have first amendment rights.

*My only problem with the WP Database is that it also finds it necessary to list the votes by astrological sign.
** I’m still looking for a nice snappy verbal slap-down for the ‘Just-Teach-The-Controversy’ crowd herd.

3 comments so far

  1. Anomalous Data on

    The Boy Scout Protection act of 2006

    Obfuscation meter pegged, Captin’ Or I think it is. I can’t tell exactly, ther

  2. blc303 on


  3. Alun on

    It’s a fascinating idea isn’t it? And it could be spread to so many other useful areas. For instance it makes crime much more economically viable if the plaintiff can’t claim damages.

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