A ruling in a landmark federal "intelligent design" trial is expected to be handed down Tuesday, according to court officials.
Judge John E. Jones III's response to six weeks of testimony could determine whether the concept — which attributes the origin of life and the emergence of highly complex life forms to an unidentified intelligent force — can be mentioned in public school science classes.
An advisory e-mailed Monday from the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg said "Judge Jones is expected to file his opinion in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case at some point" on Tuesday. The advisory confirmed reports passed along by the plaintiffs in the case, who are challenging a school district policy requiring references to intelligent design.
Plaintiffs' attorneys are planning a news conference in front of the Harrisburg courthouse where the case was heard this fall. Scientists from the National Center for Science Education, which assisted plaintiffs in the case, are flying in from California for the decision.
"We feel very good about the case we presented," said Eric Rothschild, the plaintiffs' lead attorney.
Defense lawyers said they will wait and see.
"There's not much that we can do," said Richard Thompson of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thomas More Law Center. "It's out of our hands."
The Dover Area School Board voted a year ago to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps," and it refers students to an intelligent-design textbook for more information.
Eight families sued to have intelligent design removed, contending that it is biblical creationism in disguise and therefore violates the constitutional ban on the state establishment of religion.
Jones' ruling could go in one of three directions, legal experts have said.
He could rule in support of the school district's decision that intelligent design in high-school biology class does not violate the First Amendment, thereby paving the way for the concept to be introduced in public schools across the country.
Or he could decide that intelligent design is unconstitutional because it's religion disguised as science.
Jones could also decide that school board members were motivated by religion when they voted to include intelligent design in the biology curriculum, but avoid ruling on whether intelligent design is legitimate science.
This report includes information from The Associated Press and MSNBC.com.