Lawsuit Against Evolution: The Plot Thickens

Everyone remembers the Lawsuit Filed Against Evolution, about which we posted a few weeks ago. It came to our attention because of a press release put out by the Christian News Wire. That same outfit has issued another press release: The Discovery Institute is Made an Offer it Can’t Refuse.

Like the first, the source of this new item is presumably Tom Ritter, the man who is suing his school board over the theory of evolution. This press release tells a curious tale, but we don’t see any supporting data so we can’t check the accuracy of what it says. All we can do is give you a few excerpts from Ritter’s press release and urge you to click on the link to read it for yourself. You’ll have to reach your own conclusions. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

The Discovery Institute of Seattle wants Tom Ritter to drop his lawsuit against The Blue Mountain School District of central Pennsylvania over the teaching of evolution.

Ritter alleges that the teaching of evolution is merely Atheism in disguise. The Discovery Institute is worried he will lose the suit.

We would have posted about this earlier, but we were hoping to see something at the Discoveroids’ website. We don’t see anything there about this, so we’re proceeding anyway. Let’s read on from Ritter’s press release:

It is worth noting The Discovery Institute LOST the infamous case of Kitzmiller v Dover School District, handed down in 2005 in the same federal court district as The Blue Mt. School District case.

Technically, the Discoveroids weren’t a party in that case, but their “theory” of intelligent design certainly went down in flames. We continue:

Ritter also says he is not impressed for other reasons: First, and most importantly, Ritter says there will be NO public schools in just a few years.

He provides a link for that, but we won’t bother with it. Here’s more:

Second, Ritter does not plan to lose the lawsuit.

Oh. That’s a good reason not to drop the case. Here’s how Ritter reaches the conclusion that he won’t lose:

The Blue Mountain School District has a legal problem: The Kitzmiller case outlawed the teaching of any form of Intelligent Design. Since there are logically only two explanations for the existence of life, any school teaching evolution must therefore teach blind evolution. Since The Blue Mt. SD teaches evolution, Ritter says it must teach Atheism.

[...]

But it is illegal to teach Atheism in the public schools.

Yeah, okay. Moving along:

Third, at 63, Ritter says he is no longer afraid of powerful institutions, be they The Blue Mountain School District, the entire public (government) school system or the Discovery Institute.

The man is fearless! Another excerpt:

So Tom Ritter offers The Discovery Institute the following compromise:

If The Institute will get him 10 (ten) sets of parents from different schools districts in Pennsylvania east of Harrisburg to protest the public schools, HE WILL DROP HIS LAWSUIT. [All caps in the original.]

Huh? What does that accomplish? Why drop a sure winner of a lawsuit in exchange for ten sets of creationist parents? Did Ritter start this case merely because he’s lonesome for creationist fellowship?

There’s a bit more in the press release, but we’ve given you the substance of it. Maybe we’ll hear something from the Discoveroids. It would be fun to see their response.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Lawsuit Against Evolution: The Plot Thickens

  1. Ritter’s clearly enjoying the circus.

    As long as he’s largely harrassing fellow IDiots, no problem. And he’s not going to get far with his lawsuit, even if he finds someone who can write coherently to amend it.

  2. infamous case of Kitzmiller v Dover School District

    “infamous”? Naw. Famous case, Tom. Famous.

    Since there are logically only two explanations for the existence of life, any school teaching evolution must therefore teach blind evolution. Since The Blue Mt. SD teaches evolution, Ritter says it must teach Atheism.

    Whaaaat?!?! I can’t even parse that sentence, let alone understand his extremely convoluted logic.

  3. From his website, the Ritster writes about himself:

    Tom Ritter also has a stentorian voice, a dry sense of humor, and is not afraid of addressing crowds.

    Well, isn’t that special. I’ve never met a creationist with even the merest shred of a sense of humor; I guess that’s the definition of extremely dry.

    Also, I seem to recall that “evolution as religion” has already been dealt with by the courts. BTW, Tom, it isn’t.

  4. The administrators of whichever school district Ritter taught for are now feverishly locating records and shredding them.

    Ritter? He taught here? We never heard of the guy….

  5. Gary, you are almost unbelievably polite,or you’re a lawyer. ‘Convoluted’ doesn’t really mean the same as ‘so infantile that most ten year olds couldn’t see through it’.

  6. About dang time that someone stood up to the Discovery Institute.

    So much for the ‘Big Tent’

  7. @cnocspeirag: Thanks for the compliment. I’m an engineer. Convoluted? Infantile? Meh, we’re both being polite.

  8. rpenner put this up at Pharyngula:

    Update. The complaint was dismissed yesterday without prejudice and Ritter was instructed to file again within 30 days.

    AND NOW, this 10th day of February 2011, having considered Plaintiff Thomas Ritter’s pro se Complaint (Doc. No. 1) and Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 2), it is ORDERED as follows:
    (1) Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis is GRANTED. [[The United States Code permits any court of the United States to “authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit” that includes a statement indicating that the person is unable to pay such fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The granting of a petition to proceed in forma pauperis is “committed to the sound discretion of the district courts.” United States v. Holiday, 436 F.2d 1079 (3d Cir. 1971). Moreover, “[t]he only statutory requirement to proceed in forma pauperis is good faith and does not require that the underlying claim be meritorious.” Martinez v. Bureau of Prisons, 444 F.3d 620, 624 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing Ellis v. United States, 356 U.S. 674 (1958)). Plaintiff filed the appropriate affidavit in support of his request to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In the affidavit, Plaintiff states that he is not currently employed and has not been employed since February 2009. (See Doc. No. 2 at 1) Plaintiff reports that he receives just over $1,000 per month in social security, that he does not have any cash or money in a bank account, that his mother is dependant upon him for financial support, and that his monthly expenses total approximately $1,000. (Id.) Under these circumstances, this Court will grant Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. No. 2).]]

    (2) The proper procedure after a district court grants in forma pauperis status is to file the complaint and then “screen it” before service pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Fisher v. Miller, 373 Fed. App’x 148, 148 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Oatess v. Sobolevitch, 914 F.2d 428, 429 n.1 (3d Cir. 1990)). “The District Court may dismiss the complaint if, inter alia, it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Fisher, Fed. App’x at 148. If the Court finds that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint unless “amendment would be inequitable or futile.” Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000)); see also Fisher, 373 Fed. App’x at 149-50.

    It is well-established that courts should construe pro se complaints liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir.2009). However, Plaintiff’s pro se status does not permit this Court to read into the Complaint claims and prayers that simply are not there. Jayme v. U.S., No. 10-3248, 2011 WL 195566 (D.N.J. 2011). Viewing the pro se Complaint liberally, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff alleges that the “Blue Mt. School District does teach that evolution without the possibility of a Creator is the only explanation for the existence of life,” that this teaching is “unscientific” and “Atheism,” and that Defendant “wants to tax Plaintiff to support its scheme.” (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff then seeks a declaratory judgment that the “Blue Mt. School District is an illegal body so long as it teaches Atheism, and is thus not entitled to pursue any further actions.” (Id. at 2). Despite its best effort to do so, the Court is unable to decipher a legally valid claim from the Complaint as written for two reasons. First, Plaintiff has not alleged a legally cognizable injury, only that he disagrees with the alleged teachings of the school district. Second, Plaintiff asks the Court to declare the Blue Mountain School District “an illegal body.” This is not a proper form of relief. The Court may declare certain actions by a body to be unlawful or “illegal;” however, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Court to declare a body, in and of itself, to be “illegal.” Despite the allegedly unlawful actions Plaintiff contends that the School District is and may take, Plaintiff has cited no authority to permit a District Court to declare that a school district as a whole is “illegal.”

    Plaintiff also asks the Court to enjoin Colleen Hoptak, a tax collector for Orwigsburg Borough, Pennsylvania, from collecting any taxes “until the District is again legal.” [[Plaintiff presumably refers to Colleen Hoptak because her name appears on the Tax Notice sent to Plaintiff in an effort to collect a $230 Occupational Assessment Tax. (Doc. No. 1, Exhibit A.)]] (Id.) As a threshold matter, the Court declines to enjoin the actions of Ms. Hoptak, who is not a party to this litigation. See Bronson v. Minnick, No. 2-547, 2006 WL 1670212 (W.D. Pa. June 16, 2006) (declining to enjoin individuals who were not parties to the suit); Pennsylvania Prison Society v. Rendell, No. 97-1731, 2006 WL 4998630, at * 4 (M.D. Pa. June 12, 2006) (declining to grant injunctive relief relating to parties not before the Court). Further, the Complaint does not include any allegation of unlawful activity by the Orwigsburg Borough tax collector, how Plaintiff has been injured by an attempt to collect taxes duly owed, or how the Blue Mountain School District is in any way liable for the tax collector’s activities. Plaintiff has failed to allege a cognizable claim.

    (3) Based on the foregoing, this case is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

    (4) Plaintiff is granted leave to file an Amended Complaint in accordance with this Order within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order.

  9. Hum,

    I guess the guy will have trouble understanding how and why his case was dismissed.

  10. gabo says:

    I guess the guy will have trouble understanding how and why his case was dismissed.

    But … it was such a sure winner. How could this happen?

  11. Curmudgeon: “But … it was such a sure winner. How could this happen?”

    It didn’t. He won. Just like the chess-playing pigeons.

  12. This is why idiots shouldn’t file lawsuits.

  13. *gets the popcorn*

  14. From the court ruling: “[[Plaintiff presumably refers to Colleen Hoptak because her name appears on the Tax Notice sent to Plaintiff in an effort to collect a $230 Occupational Assessment Tax. ”

    It appears as though Ritter filed this case in order to avoid paying taxes.

    Another problem, if Ritter chooses to refile — Ritter states, “Since there are logically only two explanations for the existence of life, any school teaching evolution must therefore teach blind evolution.”

    Here again is yet another creationist who thinks that “Evolution” addresses the origin of life, which of course it does not. As far as Darwin was concerned, God may very well have created life in the first place. Darwin merely posited that natural selection was responsible for the appearance of new species, forming from already existing forms of life. He said nothing about how life got started.

  15. @Retiredsciguy :

    Even if evolution addressed the origin of life, it wouldn’t have anything to do with religion or the lack thereof.
    They put Evolution = Atheism because they hate both, and they can «try» to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. The fact is, they are completely foreign to each other. But when did «facts» prevent them to spread lies ?
    Atheism is simple : no god. NO crazy philosophies about nature of god etc, it’s just an entity that doesn’t exist according to atheists.
    Evolution at its core says that species, given time and different climates/latitudes, will change, and will not be able to reproduce with one another and as a corollary will become a new species*

    * using a very loose definition of species, getting late to work had to improvise.