A judge in US state Pennsylvania ruled on Tuesday that teaching "intelligent design (ID)" in public school science classes is unconstitutional.
The potentially far-reaching ruling, which said the doctrine was " inherently religious in nature," marks a major setback of the intelligent design movement, according to a CBS report.
"The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," said U.S. District Judge John Jones III in a 139-page decision.
"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution," he said.
The case, the first court test of ID, was the latest in a series of new challenges to evolution. Jones' decision is not binding outside the Middle District of Pennsylvania, but the plaintiffs expect it to have an impact on judges and school boards elsewhere.
Jones cited U.S. Supreme Court rulings that teaching creationism violates the First Amendment, noting that evidence at trial established that intelligent design is not science.
The intelligent design doctrine, which said the world must have been created by some supreme intelligence, does not answer the question of who or what is the designer. Jones said, "No serious alternative to God as the designer" has been proposed by proponents of the theory.
Last year, the Dover Area School Board ordered teachers to read a statement critical of evolution in the ninth-grade biology lessons. The statement suggested ID as an alternative to evolution and pointed students to a pro-ID book.
In November, the American Civil Liberties and 11 student parents filed the suit against the school board. The ruling came after 21 days of juridical proceedings, in which scientists and academics offered hours of testimony.
Jones said several board members made it clear that they wanted to introduce religious content. He said they "testified inconsistently or lied outright under oath on several occasions" in trying to disguise their intent.
The judge awarded the plaintiffs damages and legal fees and scolded the board for dragging Dover residents "into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."
Eight of the board members who adopted the policy were on the ballot last month, and all lost.
The ruling was praised not only by the plaintiff side, but also by the science community.
Alan Leshner, chief of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest U.S. scientific society, said, "We are heartened by Judge Jones' decision, which recognizes that Intelligent Design was injected into Dover's 9th grade biology classes for religious reasons rather than scientific reasons."
"We hope this decision will discourage efforts to introduce Intelligent Design into science classes in other communities," he added in a statement.