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Following the ruling by a federal judge that the theory of intelligent design cannot be taught in public schools &# 151 because it violates the constitutional ban on state-endorsed religion &# 151 the school board in Dover, Pa., regrouped to determine its next steps. The Chair [gavels meeting to order]: Ladies and gentlemen, friends, settle down please. This meeting will now come to order. [Members of board and assorted irate parents take their seats.] The Chair: Friends. In the light of our recent unpleasantness, the chair feels that henceforth, all of our board meetings should be conducted in expressly secular terms and that � in the event we choose to add or subtract any further science components to the school curricula � we should express our position on such components in terms that do not suggest to any parents who may be preparing for legal action, or to any future legal tribunal, that we are attempting to enshrine any dogmatic religious view of any sort through the public schools. Is that perfectly clear? Parent: Does that mean if we want to talk about God, we have to say something else? Like Inscrutable Grand Designer? The Chair: No. I’m afraid that language is also unacceptable to the activist judiciary. We’ll have to say something else. From now on, whenever we want to invoke the Supreme Being, we’ll need to use a secular word to describe him. Something the courts can’t object to. Like muffin. Parents [clamoring]: Muffin? Did he say muffin? This is sacrilege! The Chair: That is correct, folks. From now on, we can’t betray any religious motivation in designing our curriculum. Now to the issue at hand. We need to assess how we will teach the ninth graders Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, while subtly explaining that the theory is both sinful and wrong. My suggestion is that we read them the following statement, prior to beginning the unit on evolution [clears throat]: “Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it is still being tested. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. Muffins are tasty. Muffins are good. As with any theory, students are urged to keep an open mind.” The school attorneys advise me that this statement is thoroughly constitutional. Parent: What if we added that, following a few moments of silent but open-minded devotional reflection, any student offended by Darwin’s theory would be free to retire to the school cafeteria to study muffins while the classroom completed the unit? [Applause. Murmurs of approval.] The Chair: Well, I’d have to check it out with our lawyers. Remember that Judge Jones has just ruled that “intelligent design is a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.” We have to be careful to do more than just relabel intelligent design as muffin studies. Board member: I move that, in addition to reading the statement as amended with the option to study muffins, that we also change the Pledge of Allegiance, which is going to be overruled any day by the godless � The Chair: You mean muffin-less � Board member: Right muffin-less Supreme Court. So I move that we change the pledge to the pledge of muffins. Parent: We’re pledging allegiance to a muffin? Board member: Shh. We’re only saying it’s a muffin. But really it would be a pledge to the great big Muffin in the sky. Parent: Um, my family likes doughnuts better than muffins … Another parent: Look, we wouldn’t really be praying to muffins. It’s just a way to get around the courts. Parent: My kids are lacto-ovo-vegans. Could we maybe just say “spelt muffins?” Different parent: A muffin was eaten last week at a local Starbucks. Isn’t anyone here going to stand up for it? The Chair [gaveling]: I think we are getting off-base here, people. The point isn’t what kind of muffins we pray to. The point is that we need to make muffins sound like science, rather than tasty baked goods. Parent: Maybe we can read a statement before every science class that says something like, “Science is just a bunch of theories. It doesn’t explain anything that is really important, like muffins.” Then we could pledge allegiance to the muffins and retire to the cafeteria for enriched muffin studies. Another parent: Maybe we can read statements before teaching about anything too complicated to have evolved out of those lame bacteria and godless apes � Another parent: Muffin-less apes! The Chair: Ladies and gentlemen. We need to keep our eyes on the ball here. A federal judge has just announced to the entire world that the previous school board’s position was “breathtaking” in its “inanity.” We have to be meticulously careful to stay on the right side of the establishment clause. It seems to me that the steps we have taken here this evening will establish, for the history books, the devout commitment of the Dover school board to a power even higher than the law. The power of, er, muffins. School board: Amen. Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor and Supreme Court correspondent for Slate.

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