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Learn about “True Religion” According to Judge Jones: Watch the Traipsing Into Evolution C-SPAN Event Online

If you want to watch John West and I speaking about the Kitzmiller decision on C-SPAN-2’s Book-TV, it is now online in Real Player format, here. Unfortunately, the video is pretty low-resolution, but the audio comes through very well.

John West makes an interesting point that since the Kitzmiller decision, Judge Jones has engaged in a number of speaking engagements, including one where he stated that as a judge, he is guided by the belief that “true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible.” Here’s the whole statement as recorded in the transcript of the commencement address:

The Founders believed that true religion was not something handed down by a church or contained in a Bible, but was to be found through free, rational inquiry. At bottom then, this core set of beliefs led the Founders, who constantly engaged and questioned things, to secure their idea of religious freedom by barring any alliance between church and state. As I hope that you can see, these precepts and beliefs, grounded in my liberal arts education, guide me each day as a federal trial judge.

(Judge John E. Jones III, Dickinson College Commencement Address, May 19-21, 2006) (emphasis added))

Judge Jones’s publicly stated opinion about “true religion” squares nicely with his statement in Kitzmiller that it is “utterly false” to believe that “evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being,” because he accepted the plaintiffs testimony that “the theory of evolution … in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.” Here’s the full statement from the ruling:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

(Kitzmiller v. Dover Ruling, online version, pg. 136)

These are inappropriate words for any court to make under our First Amendment. And you should agree with me regardless of whether you believe that religion can be compatible with evolution:
Rule #1 of American First Amendment law is that the government never passes judgment on an issue in the context of whether that claim falsifies a person’s religious belief. Many people have the religious view that evolution “is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being.” Yet Judge Jones promoted pro-evolution-only-theology by writing that this particular religious view is “utterly false.”

There’s a famous quote from an old case where the Supreme Court gives clear reasoning why judicial statements like that of Judge Jones are so dangerous to religious freedom:

The law knows no heresy, and is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect. … Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief, is basic in a society of free men. It embraces the right to maintain theories of life and of death and of the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of the orthodox faiths. Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution. Men may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrines or beliefs. “Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others. Yet the fact that they may be beyond the ken of mortals does not mean that they can be made suspect before the law. … The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain. The First Amendment does not select any one group or any one type of religion for preferred treatment. It puts them all in that position.

(U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, at 86–7 (1944) (internal citations omitted))

For more details, watch the Traipsing Into Evolution Book Event on C-SPAN 2’s Book TV!

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



__k-reviewJudge John E. JonesKitzmiller v. Dover Area School District