Thursday, December 22, 2005

Beyond Dover: legal costs, tort changes and wealth for lawyers

In theory, since the Dover Decision will not be appealed to a higher court; it is only a precedent for Pennsylvania. Some speculate the legal costs will deter future creationist efforts to alter science curricula [1], but I suspect the battle has only just begun (emphases mine):
Schools Nationwide Study Impact of Evolution Ruling - New York Times

... The Dover school district is now liable for the legal fees incurred by the plaintiffs - which plaintiffs lawyers say could exceed $1 million. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as wells as lawyers with Pepper Hamilton, a private firm.

Eric J. Rothschild, a Pepper Hamilton lawyer, said in a news conference after the ruling that holding the Dover board to a financial penalty would convey to other school districts that "board members can't act like they did with impunity." But Mr. Rothschild said the fees were still being totaled, and he left open the possibility that the lawyers might go after individual board members who voted for the intelligent design policy to pay the legal costs....
The next thing we'll see is that the GOP will put legislation in place to provide tort immunity for those who challenge the science curriculum. That legislation will then be challenged in the Supreme Court, which may well then find it to be unconstitutional.

The religious right will simultaneously use this defeat to claim that liberals and "the elite" (i.e. Jews and intellectuals) are launching a war on "Faith" (ie. fundamentalist christianity), with a particular emphasis on the financial implications of the Dover defeat. They will use a distored version of the judgment, and the usual appeals to tribalism and fear, to raise hundreds of millions to finance further assaults across the public school system.

If I were a lawyer with an interest in this domain, I'd be buying new office space. In the meantime, school board elections should get a lot more attention from everyone.

[1] Note to the usual dolts -- the judge has no problem with incluuding ID/creationism in philosophy, history, social science, and/or religious studies curriccula. Neither do I. Indeed I recommend it. Of course one will need to include Hindu (population), and Animist (first Americans) perspectives as well as biblical ones.

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