Buckingham seesaws on the stand
Buckingham seesaws on the stand
Buckingham interview on YouTube
MIKE ARGENTO - York Daily Record, Friday, Oct 28, 2005
HARRISBURG It was surely one of the most anticipated moments in the history of federal jurisprudence, the appearance, finally, of former Dover Area School Board member Bill Buckingham at the Dover Panda Trial. And it did not disappoint. It was, in the truest sense of the word, unbelievable.

Really.

Unbelievable.

At the onset of his stay on the witness stand, Buckingham raised his right hand and swore, or affirmed, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then, for the record, he stated his name.

"William Buckingham."

By the time he left the stand, six hours later, I almost expected the judge to ask him for a photo ID to make sure he was indeed William Buckingham.

A telling moment came when he was asked about how the Dover Area High School had acquired 60 copies of the book Of Pandas and People, a brilliantly dumb book that promotes the idea of intelligent design.

In a deposition given in January, he said he didn't know how the district got the books. He said he didn't know who donated the books. He said he didn't ask because he didn't want to know. He said he didn't know who donated the money to buy the books.

So, during his testimony Thursday, Steve Harvey, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, asked Buckingham about the books and how the money was raised to buy them. He specifically asked Buckingham whether he raised the money at his church.

He said he hadn't.

Then, he said he had.

Then, he said he hadn't.

He said he stood before the congregation one Sunday morning and said "there was a need" for money to buy Of Pandas and People and if anyone wanted to give, they could.

"But I didn't ask anyone for money," he said.

Harvey asked him whether he took up a collection at his church, Harmony Grove Community Church.

"Not as such," Buckingham said.

So the lawyer asked him whether he got in front of the congregation and asked for donations.

"I didn't," Buckingham said.

He paused.

"I'm sorry, I did say that, but there was more to it," he said.

Anyway, he collected the money wherever it came from and then he wrote a check for $850 to Donald Bonsell, father of then-school board President Alan Bonsell.

But previously, when asked by the lawyer about who donated the books, he said he didn't know.

"Mr. Buckingham, you lied to me at your deposition ... isn't that true?" Harvey asked.

"How so?" Buckingham responded.

It went on for a while before Judge John E. Jones III told Harvey to move on.

"You made your point very effectively," the judge said.

Earlier, Harvey had made an even more effective point.

Buckingham said he never read about his adventures on the school board in the newspapers and never talked to anyone about them. He also said he never mentioned creationism at school board meetings or in the press or anywhere, for that matter.

So at the time the board was talking about creationism, Buckingham granted an interview to a Fox 43 news reporter. I guess he forgot about that new-fangled invention, videotape.

On the tape, which you can see here, Buckingham, wearing the same lapel pin he wore in court Thursday, said he wanted to balance evolution in the classroom with something else, "such as creationism."

Oops.

He said that the reporter "ambushed" him and that he was "like a deer in the headlights of a car" and that the newspapers were all reporting that he and the board were talking about creationism and that he thought to himself, "Don't say creationism."

Double oops.

It was like he had a Homer Simpson moment. He was thinking "Don't say creationism. Don't say creationism. Don't say creationism." And then he opens his yap and says "creationism."

D'oh!

And to compound the prevarication, he said he was thinking about something the newspapers reported something he didn't read or talk to anybody about.

It went on like that all day. He'd say he voted for buying a new biology book. Then, he said he voted against it. He said he thought intelligent design was a scientific theory. But he said he didn't know what intelligent design was. He said he wasn't the force behind the board adopting intelligent design and then, confronted with what he said, under oath, previously, he'd say maybe he was.

He said a lot of things, and then he'd say a lot of things that weren't exactly what he had said to begin with.

And then, he attributed his spotty, selective and just plain weird memory to his OxyContin addiction.

Unbelievable.

Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at mike@ydr.com. Read more Argento columns at ydr.com/mike.