U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III's decision in the Dover intelligent design trial earned him accolades from the scientific community and a spot as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2005.

But nearly a year after the judge issued his decision in the landmark case, a group that supports intelligent design is accusing Jones of copying some of the text from one section of his ruling from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that bills itself as a nonpartisan think-tank and research center, issued a report today comparing the scientific section of Jones' Kitzmiller v. Dover decision with a proposed "Findings of Fact" document submitted by ACLU attorneys at the end of the trial.

The report's findings, which the Discovery Institute attributes to Microsoft Word's "word count" feature, show that Jones "copied verbatim or virtually verbatim" more than 90 percent of the 6,004-word section of the ruling that discusses whether intelligent design is science.

"Jones' analysis of the scientific status of intelligent design contains virtually nothing written by Jones himself," said John West, the vice-president for public policy and legal affairs at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, during a telephone press conference yesterday. "The thinking of this section was done by the ACLU.



The ACLU successfully represented 11 parents who filed suit against the Dover Area School District and its former school board for requiring that ninth-grade biology students be told that intelligent design is an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent design attributes the origins of life to an "intelligent designer" that opponents of the movement identify as the Christian God.

West said the report's findings undercut the credibility of that section of the ruling.

The science section of the ruling was the most controversial section because in it the judge rules on whether intelligent design should be considered "good" science. He agreed with the ACLU, and decided it should not.

'PR stunt': West said the Institute's findings were released so long after the ruling because the Institute originally "gave Judge Jones the credit for writing his ruling."

But its similarities with the ACLU's "Findings of Fact" were pointed out in September by Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemistry professor and author of books supporting intelligent design.

One of the movement's most prominent scientific supporters, he testified for the former school board, saying intelligent design is science, not religion.

West said the Institute also waited to release its report in part because of the staff's desire to mark the decision's first anniversary, which is Dec. 20.

An ACLU official calls the Institute's report a stunt.

"They're getting no traction in the scientific world so they're trying to do something ... as a PR stunt to get attention," said Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the ACLU's lead attorney on the case.

"That's not how scientists work," he said. "Discovery Institute is trying to litigate a year-old case in the media."

Walczak said the Discovery Institute staff is not, as it claims, interested in finding scientific truths; it is more interested in a "cultural war," pushing for intelligent design and publicly criticizing a judge.

"Why don't these guys go back to their 'labs,' and do something meaningful?" Walczak asked. "Oh, wait. They don't have labs. Silly me."

Walczak said Jones was not a judge who "slept" through the trial and then blindly accepted the ACLU's positions.

"You could not have had a more engaged judge," he said.

Walczak said it's standard procedure for attorneys to submit proposed findings of fact. Dover's attorneys also submitted their own proposed findings to the judge. Had the judge agreed with their arguments, he would have cited their proposed findings of fact.

"This is something lawyers do routinely, precisely so judges can use them," Walczak said.

Jones' assistant said he's not issuing comments, except to advise people to read the entire Kitzmiller opinion.

Religious movement: Jones ruled that intelligent design is a religious movement and is therefore prohibited under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Staff at the Discovery Institute, the most vocal organization supporting intelligent design, criticized the former school board members and their intelligent design policy because it forced mention of intelligent design.

However, they have also criticized the judge's harsh decision against that school board.

Jones presided over the six-week-long trial held in Harrisburg last fall. After issuing his ruling on Dec. 20, he was protected by U.S. marshals over the Christmas holiday because of threats he had received.

While intelligent design proponents labeled Jones an "activist judge," the scientific community embraced his findings.

The ruling shocked some people because Jones is a Republican and a Lutheran who was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, who has spoken in favor of intelligent design.

-- Reach Christina Kauff man at 505-5436 or ckauf fman@yorkdispatch.com.