January 2006 Church & State | People & Events

Voters in Dover, Pa., went to the polls in November and tossed out school board members who promoted “intelligent design” (ID), an action that TV preacher Pat Robertson says could have dire consequences.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God,” said Robertson during the Nov. 10 edition of his “700 Club” program. “You just rejected him from your city.

“And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin,” continued Robertson. “And I’m not saying they will. But if they do, just remember you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, then don’t ask for his help ’cause he might not be there.”

Robertson’s comments came after the program aired a segment about the election outcome in Dover. He apparently couldn’t help but launch into a screed.

The comments really aren’t anything new for Robertson. In the past, Robert­son has predicted that a Florida town might be hit by a hurricane, terrorist attacks or a meteor for allowing a pro-gay group to fly rainbow flags in public places. Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in America, he agreed with the Rev. Jerry Falwell that God allowed those attacks to occur because of the actions of liberal public interest groups and gays. More recently, he suggested that the U.S. government assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

One of the new elected Dover board members, Judy McIlvaine, called Robert­son’s comments “unbelievable.” McIlvai­ne told the Philadelphia In­quirer, “He’s such a loose cannon. Perhaps it’s an honor that we have attracted the ire of Pat Robertson.”

Even the pro-ID Thomas More Center, which defended Dover’s school board in court after Americans United and the Pennsylvania ACLU filed suit, distanced itself from Robertson. The Center’s attorneys insist that ID is legitimate science and did not seem pleased to hear Robertson make religion the focal point of the discussion.

“Last time I checked, Pat Robertson didn’t have a Ph.D. in science,” said Robert Muise of the More Law Center. “He didn’t testify for us because intelligent design is about science.”

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn told The Inquirer that Robertson’s comments “shows he’s evolving into a crankier fringe character than we expected. God has better things to do than worry about the outcome of a school board election.”

Robertson refused to back down. In response to media requests, he issued a statement reading in part, “God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in his eye forever. If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin, maybe he can help them.”

In other news about intelligent design:

• A University of Kansas professor who angered fundamentalist Chris­tians with a plan to teach a course equating intelligent design with mythology was assaulted Dec. 5 on a rural road by two men he says made references to the controversy.

Paul Mirecki, a religious studies professor, said two men in a truck tailgated him on a road south of Lawrence and assaulted him with their fists and possibly a metal object. Mirecki was treated at a local hospital and released. Police are investigating, but no one has been arrested in connection with the case.

Mirecki became a lightening rod for con­troversy in November when he an­nounced he would teach a course titled “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent De­sign, Creationism and Other Religious Myth­ologies.” On a list serve used by a stu­dent freethought group, Mirecki cal­led religious conservatives “fundies” and said the course would be a “nice slap in their big fat face.” He later apologized and step­ped down as head of the department, al­though he will continue to teach. Mirecki also agreed to withdraw the course.