Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, November 03, 2005  

News: Intelligent design books bought by defendant

Perhaps I don't really understand situations such as the one I am about to describe because I am not much of a plotter. Even from the times of elementary schoolyard intrigues, I never really got it. So, I bring a clean slate to the shenanigans involved in the intelligent design trial. As you know, conservative Christians have longed to tear down the wall between church and state the U.S. Constitution establishes for more than a century. The goal has been more feverishly pursued during the last decade as evangelicals were encouraged by the ascendancy of a Republican Party that catered to the religious Right, the election of George W. Bush to the presidency, and, their ability to influence public policy. The most recent developments in the pursuit are what some commentators have deemed 'Scopes II,' and the announcement that former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, the "Ten Commandments Judge," will run for governor there.

The trial has been an embarrassment for the defendants so far. Their witnesses have been unable to offer much evidence in support of the two claims they need to sustain their position that having a statement read challenging evolution before ninth grade biology is taught to students is justified:

• Intelligent design is science, not creationism in modern dress, and

• The statement would not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by mandating the teaching of religion.

The latest news is that a school board member was paid to provide an intelligent design textbook for Dover schools. Yes, I said paid. It seems that there was a great deal of plotting to either teach intelligent design outright or at least encourage students to seek out information on the topic by a majority of the school board. At least two of its members were engaged in machinations involving acquiring the textbook favored by intelligent design supporters.

The Associated Press reports.

Dover Area School Board member Alan Bonsell on Monday was questioned by a federal judge about his deposition and his testimony during the landmark trial over whether intelligent design can be introduced in high school science classes.

Bonsell was given a chance to respond Wednesday.

"I was extremely nervous to say the least and honestly tried to do my best and answer as truthfully as a I could," Bonsell said of his deposition.

Bonsell testified Monday that he had received an $850 check from a fellow board member. The check was made out to Bonsell's father, who volunteered to donate copies of "Of Pandas and People" to the district.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III on Monday asked Bonsell why he never shared that information in a January deposition when he was repeatedly asked under oath about who was involved in making the donation. Bonsell, who served as the board's president in 2004, said he misspoke in the deposition.

The board member who provided the check, William Buckingham, testified last week that he collected donations to help purchase the books during a Sunday service at his church.

The board is defending its October 2004 decision to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to the textbook for more information.

This revelation will make it more difficult for the defendants to convince the judge that supporters of the intelligent design statement are merely interested in providing students with supplemental material about the origin of the Earth and its inhabitants. The plan to introduce intelligent design in one form or another seems to have been hatched in Dover churches and carried out by members of the school board who attended them, or were amenable to implementing the ideas of those who did.

Learning about the intrigue that was occurring in Dover makes me empathize with the minority of school board members who did not support the plan to bring intelligent design into the schools there. They must have felt as frustrated as I do when they discovered that while they were being straightforward, others were playing hide the cheese.

Reasonably related

Refresh your memory about the Scopes trial, the historic legal challenge to teaching the theory of evolution.

posted by J. | 8:30 PM

Tuesday, November 01, 2005  

Commentary: Rosa Parks and segregation

So much has been said about the recently deceased American hero Rosa Parks that there is a risk of being redundant. However, I believe that I can perform a public service by addressing some of the confusion I've seen in opinions expressed in the media and at other sites. But first, let's consider how she made history again, even in death. Mrs. Parks' body is back in Detroit, her second home after Alabama, now. But, for two days it was the subject of an unusual rite.

The Associated Press put the event in context.

On Sunday and Monday, she will become the first woman to lie in honor in the vast circular room under the Capitol dome.

By voice vote Friday, the House agreed to the action "so that the citizens of the United States may pay their last respects to this great American." The Senate approved the resolution Thursday night.

Six years ago President Bill Clinton and congressional leaders honored the former seamstress in the rotunda with the Congressional Gold Medal for a simple act of defiance that changed the course of race relations.

Arrested in 1955 after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., Parks turned to her minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King, for aid. He in turn led a 381-day boycott of the city's bus system that helped initiate the modern civil rights movement.

"This brave, courageous spirit ignited a movement, not just in Montgomery, but a movement that spread like wildfire across the American South and the nation," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Only 29 people have received the honor since it was begun in 1852.

As is my usual practice, I've been reading and watching news about this situation at different venues. I'm always curious to see how an occurrence plays with the young, or the affluent, or those who hold extreme views. What do people who are not like me think? I've observed that a couple of misconceptions keep cropping up about racial segregation.

Many people, particularly the young, seem not to realize that segregation de jure applied to all people of color.They are under the impression that only African-Americans were subjected to segregation, laws against interracial marriage and other discriminatory applications of legislative power. That isn't true. Segregation appied to all nonwhites, including immigrants and visitors to the southern United States, and, often, in the West, as well. In fact, many of the practices of segregation existed as control mechanisms used against Mexican-Americans and Indians before emancipation of the slaves. Though segregation was race based, there were also methods used to keep Jews separate from Christian whites in much of public life. So, the effort to separate people as a mark of their alleged inferiority has deeper roots than many contemporary Americans realize.

At white supremacist sites, the old saw that the civil rights movement was a plot by Communists is still being bruited about. One simply has to wonder at the mind weak enough to entertain that notion. Segregation was a day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute practice. Every time Mrs. Parks rode a bus she was subject to the rule that she either sit behind an ambiguous line or give up her seat if a white person was lacking one. In addition, she faced numerous other instances of separation and insult. She was forced to enter many public buildings through the back door. To drink from water fountains marked 'Colored' and use toilets marked 'Colored Women' if any were available. (People who lived through the era say the facilities for nonwhites were often broken or unsanitary.) Since she would not be seated at even casual restaurants, Ms. Parks either had to purchase food to go or bring some from home, hoping it would not spoil in the Alabama heat. She was fortunate to be a seamstress because people of color could not try on clothing in department stores before buying it. All of this was like a steady regimen of slaps for more than 40 years for her. One day she decided not to be slapped anymore.

Neither Mrs. Parks nor the millions of other people who joined her in rebellion needed Communists, or anyone else, to tell them their grievance was real and they had been deeply wronged. People know when they are being abused. Often, when the full force of the law is behind the abuse, they lack a way to effectively fight back. But, they still know.

It is a measure of the distance we still have to go that it is still necessary, a half century later, to explain the breadth of segregation and why heroes like Mrs. Parks opposed it.

posted by J. | 6:50 PM