One of the most fascinating aspects of the last couple weeks since the Dover ruling came down is surveying just how low some of the IDers are willing to go to attack Judge Jones. It’s all the more interesting because when he was assigned the case they were quite happy about the selection. After all, they had gotten a conservative judge, appointed by President Bush and with close ties to Tom Ridge and Rick Santorum. How could they have asked for anything more? Alas, once he ruled against them they turned on him like a pack of rabid dogs, engaging in one ad hominem after another. But the worst I’ve seen has to be this piece by Phyllis Schlaffly, which DI boss John West is endorsing.
Let’s not mince words: Schlaffly is flat out lying. But before she gets to the lies, she warms up by showing her ignorance:
Judge John E. Jones III could still be chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board if millions of evangelical Christians had not pulled the lever for George W. Bush in 2000. Yet this federal judge, who owes his position entirely to those voters and the president who appointed him, stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
Isn’t this interesting? Apparently Schlaffly is oblivious to the concept of judicial independence, one of the core concepts of our Constitution. The founders went to great lengths to make sure that judges would not be beholden to popular opinion, giving them lifetime appointments and making it virtually impossible to impeach them precisely to insulate them from any claim that they “owed” anyone anything. This was done so that judges could render an impartial decision based solely on the facts of the case and not on any sense of obligation to a constituency.
Students were merely to be read a brief statement asserting that “gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence,” and that intelligent design provides an explanation for the origin of life that could be further explored by consulting a book in the school library. While not denying that those statements may be true (it is undeniable that evolution has gaps), the judge nevertheless permanently enjoined the school board “from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution” and from saying that the theory has gaps.
This is a lie. Nothing in Judge Jones’ ruling prevents teachers from “saying that the theory has gaps.” All scientific theories have gaps, aspects which are not fully understood or disputes over how to apply the theory in particular contexts. That does not mean all scientific theories are false. Any good treatment of evolution would include some discussion of areas of ongoing controversy among scholars. But that isn’t the case here. The alternative being given was an explicitly religious idea that had already been ruled out of public school science classrooms 19 years ago. Judge Jones had no choice but to follow that precedent. District judges don’t get to overrule Supreme Court rulings.
Jones exhibited his bias for judicial activism with public remarks that should have caused his recusal. Signaling that he would exploit the dispute, Jones boasted, “It certainly is one of the most significant cases in United States history. … Even Charles Darwin’s great grandson is attending the trial.”
This is pure idiocy. Does she really think that the mere fact that the judge acknowledged that the case was getting an extraordinary amount of attention means he should recuse himself? Should he instead be oblivious and pretend that the enormous media attention going on wasn’t really happening? There is no exploitation in his statement, only acknowledgement of the obvious. Indeed, if you look at the quote in context you can see how much of a stretch her interpretation is:
The trial has endured nearly four weeks and has been proven itself to an important chapter the ongoing battle between Church and State.
“It certainly is one of the most significant cases in United States history,” Judge Jones said. “Even Charles Darwin’s great grandson is attending the trial.”
“It’s hard to say [how this case will be remembered,” Judge Jones said. “History generally gets written a long time after the fact. We’ll know better in ten or 20 years. All we can do now is decided as according to the law and legal precedent and hope for the best.”
Now, does that really sound like a judge out for self-aggrandizement, or does it sound like a judge who recognizes the attention the case will get but understands that he just has to do his job the best he can? By the way, this was from an interview that Judge Jones gave to a high school newspaper in Pennsylvania. He was trying to give the kids a sense of how he does his job in the face of such enormous attention. To find something conspiratorial and scandalous in that is patently absurd.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge described Jones as a close friend and future candidate for governor. When questioned, Jones did not rule this out. Playing up to the New York Times in an article published days before his opinion was released, Jones made the silly boast that he reads five newspapers a day.
Why this is silly she doesn’t bother to say. It’s a common question for judges in high profile cases. Are they aware of what’s going on outside the courtroom, aware of the media attention a case is getting, or do they sequester themselves away as they would a jury and avoid watching the news or reading the papers? In Judge Jones’ case, he rightly acknowledged that the case was getting a great deal of attention and that he is not one of those judges who pretends to ignore the world around him. Only in the mind of someone desperate to find any means of tarring someone would this be interpreted as a bad thing.
He smeared “fundamentalists,” impugned the integrity of those who disagree with him by accusing them of lying and issued an unnecessary permanent injunction.
Wrong, wrong and wrong. He did not “smear” fundamentalists, and nowhere in the ruling will you find any statements that could be reasonably interpreted as such. He did note in many places that the roots of creationism can be found in the fundamentalist movement, but that is merely descriptive of reality. And he did not “impugn the integrity of those who disagree with him” by accusing them of lying, he accused two specific people of lying. And there is a very good reason why he did so – because they were lying. The trial record proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt and there may well be perjury charges coming.
Isn’t it interesting how Schlaffly doesn’t even address the question of whether the accusation of lying is true or not? She just assumes that if you’ve accused someone she agrees with of lying, you’re “impugning their integrity.” But what if the accusation is true, as it is in this case? Frankly, this article makes very clear that Schlaffly doesn’t give a damn about the truth. As far as the “unnecessary” injunction, she continues to beat this drum later:
As the reader of five newspapers, Jones was surely aware that the Dover school board had already changed hands, indicating it would be dropping mention of intelligent design. Rather than admit that the case was largely moot, as a judge should, he resorted to judicial activism to make the case a cause celebre.
This is just total cluelessness. Legal scholars were pretty much agreed that the election did not moot the case under any legal doctrine. Neither side made any motion to have the case dismissed following the results of the election. Under the voluntary cesession doctrine, the fact that a defendant voluntarily stops doing what he is being sued for is not grounds for a case to be dismissed, the court still has to rule on the merits of the case. More importantly, the new school board did not get seated until a month after the election and they did not reverse the policy until this week. A judge certainly cannot dismiss a case, without a motion to do so, because a new school board might decide to change the policy. He still has to rule on the case before him.
To highlight the hypocrisy of this, there is now a case going on in Massachusetts involving students who were suspended for handing out candy canes with bible verses attached to them in school. The ACLU wrote a letter to the school and got the suspensions reversed, but the students, represented by Schlaffly allies the Liberty Council, filed suit anyway to get an injunction to insure it doesn’t happen again. They have every right to do so, of course, and I don’t hear Phyllis complaining about that case.
He lashed out at witnesses who expressed religious views different from his own, displaying a prejudice unworthy of our judiciary. He denigrated several officials because they “staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public.”
This is the biggest and most ridiculous lie of them all. The judge did not say anything whatsoever about “religious views different from his own.” He never mentioned his religious views at all. He lashed out at witnesses for lying under oath. As for the second accusation, judge for yourself. Here is what Judge Jones actually wrote about those officials:
It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID
What is even more ironic is that Schlaffly is lying about what the judge said in order to cover up the real reason why he “denigrated” those public officials. When William Buckingham said he had never discussed creationism at school board meetings, he was lying. When he said that he had no idea where the money to buy the books came from, he was lying. When Alan Bonsell claimed that he didn’t know where that money came from, he was lying. And that’s just a small sample of the lies they told. They lied and they got caught lying and the judge – correctly and accurately – nailed them for their lies. He did not “denigrate” them because they touted their religious faith in public, he correctly takes them to task for touting their religious faith in public and then committing perjury on the witness stand, an act that surely stands in marked contrast to the requirements of that faith.
With all of the vicious attacks coming from the DI over the last couple weeks, I thought they had reached rock bottom in how low they would stoop to attack Judge Jones. Clearly, that was just a warmup for Schlaffly’s screed. The fact that the DI’s director links to and endorses the content only shows that they are complicit in the multiple lies and fallacies found within it. These people simply do not care what is true and what is not. If an accusation is useful to them, they will make it – and truth be damned. As much as I think those “What Would Jesus Do” bracelets are absurd, I think Schlaffly and West could surely use them. Liars for Jesus, indeed.