A federal judge dealt a setback to the teaching of intelligent design in public schools by ruling Tuesday, December December 20, that a Pennsylvania school district's policy promoted an unconstitutional variation of creationism, a religious theory.

U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones, who presided over a six-week trial in Harrisburg, Pa., ruled that intelligent design violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which bars government from establishing a religion or favoring one religion over another.

Jones said it is "abundantly clear" the Dover Area School District's policy — which requires that ninth-grade students hear a statement on intelligent design prior to the start of a unit on evolution — "violates the Establishment Clause."

Jones added: "In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal issue of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

The landmark case, which garnered international attention, pitted the American Civil Liberties Union and 11 parents in the Dover district against the school board's policy.

Proponents of intelligent design say the universe and many living things are so complex that they must have been created by an intelligent, higher being. Critics say intelligent design is unscientific, rooted in creationism and a barely veiled attempt to bring religion into public schools.

Opponents to the Dover policy said the board was motivated by religious beliefs, specifically Christianity, when it approved a one-minute statement in which evolution is described as "not a fact" and intelligent design is mentioned as an alternative explanation of the origin of life.

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