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Law center fights to dethrone Darwin
Toledo Blade


March 14, 2006

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Visitors to this law office are greeted by a life-size portrait of a saint. Beside the saint is a head-and-shoulders statue of Jesus carrying the cross up Golgotha. As the visitor walks down the hall, he may be tempted to dip a finger in the holy water fountain he encounters there.

But the fountain is empty at the moment. No time to fill it. People here are too busy fighting a holy war of sorts - a war to rescue the American culture.

Tucked into the sprawling Domino Farms complex are the offices of the Thomas More Law Center. It was created in 1999 by Thomas Monaghan, founder of Dominos Pizza and a philanthropist for conservative Catholic causes. A $500,000 donation by Monaghan gave the center its start. The patron saint of lawyers, depicted in the reception area portrait, gave the center its name.




This is the home of the lawyers who unsuccessfully defended the Dover, Pa., Board of Education when it was sued for promoting intelligent design in its science classes. The eight attorneys employed by the More center, including two in California and one in Washington, D.C., are quickly becoming leaders in the fight to dethrone Darwin in the science classroom and make a place for intelligent design.

Intelligent design is the notion that some things in nature are too complex to have evolved. It is only one of the socially conservative causes that the Thomas More center champions. The center also opposes abortion, homosexuality, assisted suicide, and the use of human embryos to derive stem cells. It has been active in the fight for public displays of the Ten Commandments and nativity scenes.

Behind its legal actions is the belief by its president and chief counsel Richard Thompson that Christianity is under siege from all quarters, but especially from the federal courts, the American Civil Liberties Union, and what Thompson calls the "homosexual lobby."

The ACLU and the courts are "basically cleansing America of religion and particularly Christianity," Thompson says. "It's almost like a genocide. It's a sophisticated genocide."

In a nation where more than 80 percent of the citizens are Christians, and politicians from the president on down publicly and regularly invoke the name of God, that seems a strange claim.

Thompson responds: Don't "look at the words so much, but look at the actions."

Focus on the banning of "nativity scenes, the cross, prayer in schools, bible reading in schools, moments of silence, prayers at football games - it's a very militant attempt to surgically remove religion from the public square and turn us into an atheistic society," Thompson says.

"That is a silly caricature of what is really going on," says Jeremy Gunn, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

"I think that kind of language about a culture war is itself harmful, and is stoking the flames," Gunn says. "We need to understand the real issues underlying the debate ... There are serious issues here. To characterize this as good versus evil is living in a cartoon."

But Thompson is convinced that the war is on, and he wants to do battle in what he says is its most important arena: the public schools.

"The humanists say, we've got your children in the public school system and we're going to teach them the way we want to teach them. That's why you get sex-education classes the way you have them. A lot of schools get involved in teaching them about pornography. That's why you get the theory of evolution being taught," he says.

"It's all changing the minds of students."

That's why he sides with those who would teach intelligent design in science class.

Although he has never taken a biology class - "I didn't want to cut up frogs" - Thompson can discuss the details of the intelligent design claim.

Thompson says that evolution has gone beyond the bounds of science into religion.

"If you say ... evolution is unplanned and undirected, then you basically say there is no God," he says.

"The biology textbooks that the public school systems were purchasing and using were going beyond the science and into religion," Thompson says. "That's where we had a big problem."



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