A ruling finally came down today in that Dover, PA intelligent design case. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III finds that intelligent design is not science, nor can it "uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents." He contends that the assumption that evolution is inherently opposed to belief in a supreme being is unfounded, and that it is a violation of the Establishment Clause to teach ID in public school classrooms. The ruling is here.
Very interesting and I think a correct ruling. The problem with the way the Discovery Institute with intelligent design, Texas AG Greg Abbott with the Ten Commandments stuff, and others have been going about their business is that they're trying to deny religious intent when clearly their motivations for pursuing certain goals are clearly religiously motivated. They're almost forced to debate that way since they know that the Constitution forbids establishment of religion, but in the course of doing so, they try to frame their intents otherwise.
The real debate in this country right now, though, is over what role religion should have in public life -- in other words, over whether we should stick with that part of the First Amendment or not. There are a lot of very powerful people who don't think so. And that's fine. People are free to believe what they want.
Now, I think they're wrong that we should take down that barrier of separation that, as Justice O'Connor put it so beautifully last year, has served us so well for the last two centuries. Why? Because I believe that we need religious liberty for everyone to ensure that religious liberty for everyone will stand in the face of changing demographic patterns and social mores. I want my children and their children's children to be free to worship as we believe, not as a government tells us we have to believe.
My point here, though, and the point that Judge Jones' ruling suggests and that Justice Scalia noted in the oral arguments over the Ten Commandments case last spring, is that we ought to have the debate over the real issue at hand. That would save a lot of time and money and get to the heart of the question that divides our society. And it would be a lot more interesting than the constant, context-specific, back-and-forth things that we have now.