June 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A federal judge who issued a landmark ruling striking down “intelligent design” (ID) creationism in a Pennsylvania public school district in 2005 has announced that he is leaving the federal bench.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III will assume the position of interim president of Dickinson College, his alma mater.

The legal challenge to ID in Dover, Pa., was brought by Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm Pepper Hamilton with expert assistance and support from the National Center for Science Education.

Jones’ 139-page ruling was so strong that few districts since then have tried to force ID onto students. The opinion was also celebrated for its straightforward style. Jones blasted the school board’s “breathtakingly inanity” in passing the ID policy and criticized the “utter waste of monetary and personal resources” spent on its defense.

A lifelong Republican, Jones was appointed to the federal judiciary by President George W. Bush. His ruling in the ID case infuriated many Christian nationalists. Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum penned a screed asserting, “This federal judge, who owes his position entirely to those voters and the president who appointed him, stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance.”

Nine years after the Dover ruling, Jones issued a decision striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, observing, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”