'Intelligent design' debate colors York County race
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

DOVER, Pa. -- Ideological differences over the teaching of evolution and the origin of life were transformed into partisan politics yesterday, as voters nominated candidates for the local school board.

Republicans favored seven incumbent Dover Area school board members who support requiring ninth-grade students to be told about "intelligent design" when they learn about evolution in biology class, according to unofficial election results.

Democrats chose an opposing slate of seven candidates backed by a citizens' group that opposes mentioning intelligent design in science classes, according to the same unofficial results.

The campaign leading up to yesterday's primary in the York County municipality has been dominated by the board's decision in October to impose the intelligent-design mandate. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by some kind of guiding force.

But eight families who have filed a federal lawsuit against the school district argue that intelligent design is merely biblical creationism disguised in secular language and has no place in a science classroom. The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in September.

The Rev. Warren Eshbach, a spokesman for the Democratic candidates running on behalf of Dover Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies, or Dover CARES, called the results a "good start."

"Our candidates believe intelligent design can be taught, but not in science," Eshbach said. "The school board's decision is against the law as it now stands."

The 14 candidates emerged from a field of 18 in the primary. Seven of the board's nine seats were up for election.

The incumbents included board president Sheila Harkins and member Alan Bonsell, who were on the winning side of a 6-3 school board vote in October to impose the mandate, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. The others are filling unexpired terms of board members who have since moved out of the district or resigned in protest.

The Dover CARES candidates include Bryan Rehm, a former Dover Area High School physics teacher, who is a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.

Two board members who resigned in protest, Jeff Brown and Angie Yingling, also were competing in the primary election but failed to win nominations in either party.

First published on May 18, 2005 at 12:00 am
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