Dover School Board grasping at straws

Well it had to happen.

As the trial in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District comes to a close this week, the defendants are doing everything they can to save themselves from losing the case. This includes changing their testimony, selective memory, and the ever useful – attacking the media.

How it usually works is that before a trial, the parties in the case are questioned in depositions and in the trial they are questioned on what they said then. In most cases the testimony in court doesn’t differ than much from what the people said in the depositions. In the Dover case, this has not happened.

Judge John E. Jones III demanded to see a copy of [Alan] Bonsell’s previous sworn statements. After he finished reading, Jones asked Bonsell when he became aware that his father, Donald, was in possession of an $850 check used to purchase copies of the pro-intelligent design textbook.

Bonsell said he had given the check to his father.

Last week, former board member Bill Buckingham testified he handed the check, dated Oct. 4, 2004, to Alan Bonsell and asked him to forward it to Donald Bonsell. Written in the check’s memo line were the words: “for Pandas and People books.”

“You tell me why you didn’t say Mr. Buckingham was involved,” a visibly angry Jones said, staring at Bonsell as he read from his deposition.

Bonsell said he misspoke. And then, “That’s my fault, your honor.”

Bonsell said he didn’t think it mattered because Buckingham had not actually donated any of his money. Rather, the money had been collected from members of his church.

But Jones pointed out that Bonsell had said he had never spoken to anybody else about the donations.

The judge also wanted to know why the money needed to be forwarded to his father, why Buckingham couldn’t have purchased the books himself.

Bonsell stammered.

“I still haven’t heard an answer from you,” Jones said.

“He said he’d take it off the table,” Bonsell said.

“You knew you were under oath?” Jones asked at one point.

Judge grills Dover official

Or this bit:

Jones’ exchange with Bonsell was the second time the judge has intervened in testimony and questioned school board members on his own. On Friday, Jones asked Heather Geesey about her newly acquired recollection that board members at June 2004 meetings were publicly discussing intelligent design, rather than creationism as reported in the media.

In her deposition, Geesey had been unable to recall details about board discussions during the meetings.

And when they weren’t changing their stories, they attacked the press and accused it of making up that they talked about “creationism” in their meetings:

Before Bonsell was forced to defend his past recollections, he spent much of his time on the stand accusing the local press, in particular two reporters — Heidi Bernhard-Bubb, a freelance writer with The York Dispatch, and Joe Maldonado, a freelance writer with the York Daily Record/Sunday News — of incorrectly reporting that board members had said “creationism” at the June 2004 board meetings rather than “intelligent design.”

Bonsell said the media continues to misrepresent the case and the concept of intelligent design — the idea that life’s complexity demands a designer.

Harvey wanted to know why he keeps talking to reporters, since he doesn’t feel they are correctly reporting the facts.

Bonsell said because he hoped “some of the truth would get out.”

Before Bonsell’s testimony Monday, former board member Jane Cleaver had also testified that board members had been talking about intelligent design at the June 2004 board meetings, but the local newspapers reported they were saying creationism.

However, under cross-examination, she said she was unsure if intelligent design had been brought up at meetings in June or later at the July board meeting.

It could be important because if the board was talking about “creationism” before bringing up Intelligent Design (ID) then it speaks to their religious intentions in the issue.

However the plaintiffs in the case questioned the school board on their hiring of the Thomas More Law Center to represent them. The center states as one of their missions:

Defending and promoting the religious freedom of Christians

We live in a culture increasingly hostile to Christians and their faith. America has become a nation where public school students are prohibited from praying, acknowledging their dependence upon God, and forming religious clubs; where schools and communities are challenged from displaying nativity scenes, the Ten Commandments, and other symbols of our religious and moral heritage. The Thomas More Law Center affirms the right of Christians to publicly practice their religion and freely express their religious beliefs. Our Founding Fathers fought for a nation built on a foundation of religion and morality. Our lawyers are committed to restoring and preserving that foundation.

So the questioning of that decision speaks toward the Board’s intent that the decision to included ID was based on religion. The school board and their defenders have been quick, through the whole controversy, to question the participation of the ACLU on the side of the parents against ID.

For months, defendants and their supporters have questioned the intentions of the ACLU, one of the groups representing 11 plaintiffs suing the Dover board. They’ve claimed the group promotes immorality, such as child pornography and legalizing illicit drugs.

ACLU attorney Witold Walczak said his legal organization doesn’t discriminate and represents people — including Christians — who want to defend their rights.

Walczek said Harvey’s question hit on a lingering point.

“I think it’s a question everyone wanted to ask,” Walczek said. “If this case has nothing to do with religion, why are you employing the Thomas More Law Center?”

Plaintiffs ask: Why choose Thomas More?

The trial is due to conclude on Friday.


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