In a mock courtroom case that revolved around the concept of intelligent design, a fictitious junior high school teacher likely would have lost his bid to teach the controversial theory.
The University of Toledo college of law yesterday held its annual Charles W. Fornoff Competition, in which law students engage in appellate arguments before three actual judges.
The case, which is similar to actual court cases, including one federal trial being held in Pennsylvania, involved an eighth-grade teacher who taught intelligent design despite a school district policy prohibiting the concept.
"In the regard of intelligent design, we may change the name of God to an intelligent being," said second-year law student George Thomas, who argued for the fictitious school district. "Certainpeople could not believe in that concept."
U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds, of Detroit; U.S. District Court Judge James Carr, of Toledo, and Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals Judge William Skow, also of Toledo, said Mr. Thomas and his co-counsel Holly LeClair were the better orators and proclaimed them the winners.
But Judge Carr stressed that their decision was not an indication on how they would rule if an actual case involving intelligent design or creationism versus evolution came before any of them.
"This is an issue that could come before any of us," he said.
The proceeding captivated several hundred students who were split on the issue.
"I don't think intelligent design should be taught," said first-year law student Rebecca Dupuis. "It is endorsing certain religious perspectives"
Her classmate, Hank Schaefer, is on the other side of the argument.
"By refusing to allow [intelligent design], you are endorsing other religions," Mr. Schaefer said. "If you prohibit all religious ideas, then you are establishing atheism as the national religion"
Creationism teaches that God created life on Earth as written in the Bible's Book of Genesis. Intelligent design proposes that an unspecified intelligent entity was responsible for creating life on Earth. The designer could be God, but it also could have been space aliens, according to the theory.
The challenge to Darwin's theory of evolution was hotly debated in Ohio. The Ohio Board of Education in December, 2002 adopted language that, for the first time, said local school districts can critically analyze evolution. Parents have sued schools over the concept. Eight Pennsylvania families are suing to have intelligent design removed from the Dover Area School District's biology curriculum.
The issue occasionally comes before local school boards.
In February, Spencer Genson, 13, a seventh grader at Leverette Junior High School, presented the Toledo Board of Education with a petition to ban the teaching of evolution in the district's seventh-grade curriculum.
Patricia Petryk, a science teacher at East Toledo's Waite High School, said creationism and intelligent design is explained to students.
"If they bring it up, we do explain to them both sides," Mrs. Petryk said. "As far as I know, there is no teacher that judges the kid if they believe in evolution or not. Evolution is still a theory, and no teacher says it is a law."
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