Topic: Society

U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones
(December 2005)

Judges are supposed to decide cases based on their facts and legal merits, and not have one eye on polls or the opinions of the public servants who appoint them. It is called integrity, a core ethical value. But to listen to the ideologues in both political parties, a judge is nothing but a package of predetermined positions bought and paid for. A federal judge appointed by a conservative politician is likely to be labeled a “traitor” (that is, even worse than “a liberal”) if he dares to stand in the way of a pet cause merely because it is at odds with logic, court precedent, or the Constitution.

So we have come to a point in the culture wars where the simple act of doing one’s job well and doing it with integrity can make a judge an Ethics Hero. This is what occurred when John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa. wrote his superb 139-page opinion dismantling the disingenuous and convoluted arguments of “intelligent design” advocates, relentlessly driving home his conclusion that their true goal is to “change the ground rules of science to make room for religion, specifically, beliefs consonant with a particular version of Christianity.”

Jones was appointed by President Bush, who has gone on record as believing that “intelligent design” should be taught with evolution in the classroom. The “intelligent design” forces (actually creationists in disguise, as Judge Jones devastatingly explains in his opinion) felt they had reason to believe they would get a sympathetic hearing as they defended the Dover, Pa.’s school board’s attempt to plaster an evolution “disclaimer” on science textbooks. It was not to be. Jones not only rejected their defense, he went to extraordinary lengths to document the dishonesty of the intelligent design movement, why it cannot be called science, and why its introduction into science studies is a clear violation of the Constitutional prohibition against state endorsed religious beliefs.

His remarkable opinion is clear, thoroughly researched and persuasive to anyone whose mind has not been prematurely closed by dogma. The Scoreboard will not attempt to digest it or summarize it here, because the opinion should be read in its entirety (go to It will only suggest that particular attention is due Judge Jones’ use of a key “intelligent design” strategy document, in which the term “intelligent design” had been electronically substituted for the words “creationism” and “creationist” throughout, to expose defendants claim that “intelligent design” was not religious in nature for the lie it is.

Jones pulled no punches, despite knowing that he would be attacked by his former conservative allies, and he has been. But Jones is a judge, not a politician, and good judges do their job with skill, courage, and integrity regardless of the desires of political parties, patrons, allies and interest groups. His opinion in Kitzmillar v. Dover Area School District shows that Judge Jones is a good judge, and also an Ethics Hero.

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