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Teacher Asked to be Excused from Presenting 'Intelligent Design'

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A biology teacher has testified at a landmark U.S. trial, saying she and her colleagues refused to read a statement on "intelligent design'' in class because they questioned the concept's scientific validity.

Vastly different from Charles Darwin's evolution theory, the "intelligent design'' concept is not a viable scientific alternative, teacher Jennifer Miller said Thursday.

Eight families of students have sued the education authorities of Dover Area School Board, saying that including the "intelligent design'' in biology curriculum promotes the Bible's view of creation and violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

"It would misrepresent the importance of the theory of evolution to our students,'' said Miller, one of a group of teachers who presented a memo to the district asking to be excused from reading the statement on intelligent design.

She said that mentioning intelligent design would be contradictory in science class, because it wasn't a legitimate scientific theory.

Under a policy approved by the school board in October 2004, students must hear a brief statement about intelligent design before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact,'' has inexplicable "gaps,'' and refers students to a textbook called "Of Pandas and People'' for more information.

Intelligent design supporters argue that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force, and that natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The school district is being defended by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.

The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to last up to five weeks.

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