Lauri Lebo

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Lauri Lebo
Born(1964-03-18)March 18, 1964
Newberrytown, Pennsylvania
OccupationTeacher’s union spokeswoman, ACLU-PA BOD, Author, journalist
Notable credit(s)
Coverage of Kitzmiller v. Dover
The Devil in Dover
Murder case in 1969 York race riot
Spouse(s)Jefferson Pepper
Website"Lauri Lebo Public Facebook Page". Facebook. Retrieved 2016-09-07.

Lauri Lebo is a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania State Education association,[1] Secretary of the ACLU-Pennsylvania Board of Directors,[2] author, former radio station co-owner[3] and disc jockey,[4] and reporter from York County, Pennsylvania. Lebo was the principal local reporter covering Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2004 and 2005, and was featured prominently in the Nova documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial both because of her coverage and because her father, Shiremanstown Mayor Dean Lebo, who co-owned Christian radio station WWII-AM (broadcasting to Harrisburg), sided with the Dover school board in the controversy.[5]

An award winning journalist for over 20 years,[6] including helping to reopen murder cases from the 1969 York Race Riot,[6][7] Lebo left reporting to write The Devil in Dover,[8] a book about the trial of the intelligent design movement and its effects on Dover.

Early life[edit]

Lauri was the oldest of Dean and Ann Lebo’s five children.[9] Lauri Lebo attended Sunday school weekly and sang in the church choir. She believed the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and Jesus’ sacrifice. Her mother taught her to enjoy life. Her father taught her about possibilities. As she grew older, she drifted away from the church.[10]

Her father’s conversion to the Pentecostal faith began in 1987, when Lauri Lebo was about 23, when the father who had taught her about the distance of the stars and whom she loved dearly became “... a fundamentalist, speaking-in-tongues, slain-in-the-spirit, beware-the-mark-of-the-beast, faith-healing Christian...”)[11][12]

Lebo said her York County male elementary school classmates used to beat her up because of her “big mouth.”[12]

Inspired by her friend's journalist father, Ed Jensen, who included his daughter’s friends in his “clever” news-related conversations, Lebo was deciding to become a journalist.[13]

When she was 15, her family evacuated[14] their home due to the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown just across the Susquehanna River from Newberrytown, less than 5 miles from her home at the time.[15]

Journalism/Authorship career[edit]

Ed Jensen stayed in the area to report when Three Mile Island had its partial nuclear meltdown. Jensen died three years later of cancer, and Lebo “understood what it means to be a reporter," and become one in 1985.[13]

In 2000, her first big story covered the 1969 York, PA race riot.[16] Based on a series of articles for the 30th anniversary of the riots by Lebo and others at the York Daily Record/Sunday news, the York County District Attorney and Deputy Prosecutor each reopened investigations.[7]

Journalism related to the Dover trial[edit]

In 2004, the York Daily Record assigned their Education Reporter, the then-Christian Lebo, to cover Kitzmiller v. Dover, which she called “the most amazing story I've ever covered in my life.”

Lebo sat through every day of testimony.[4] “As a reporter who doesn't come from a scientific background,” she was amazed daily that she was getting paid to “learn about evolution and the scientific method.”[14] The plaintiffs presented “The biology class you wish you could have taken”,[17] as Lebo quoted Margaret Talbot. “Every day we’d... learn something else incredible about... the fossil record, about the Avida program, which is a software program that actually shows evolution.”[5] Lebo had thought she could see the “hand of the Divine” when Intelligent Design was first described to her. She had been looking forward to hearing scientific arguments for the Christian god. Instead, she heard the primary scientist for the defense, biochemist Michael Behe, admit that astrology is as much a science as Intelligent Design is.[18]

During her December 2015 interview with Freedom From Religion’s Freethought Radio podcast, Lebo compared the pressure that Dover teachers felt to teach Creationism in biology class on the one hand, to the pressure she received from her employer to "write something nice" about Creationism on the other.[14] Although it relented after several months, the York Daily Record threatened Lebo with dismissal if she spoke at “Evolution 2006”, put on by the Stonybrook University Department of Ecology and Evolution. The York Daily Record also strongly opposed Lebo’s request for time off to write her book on the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, claiming this would offend their conservative Christian readers. So Lebo quit her job as reporter and wrote The Devil in Dover.[8]

Afterwards, Lebo became a reporter for Religion Dispatches,[19] from which she announced, on 2011-07-10, her retirement to join the Pennsylvania State Education Association.[20]

Lebo was one of three panel judges for the 2016 Heywood Broun (journalism) Award.[21] In October 2016, Lebo was given the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Freethought Heroine Award in recognition of the special contributions of women to freethought and the battle to keep state and church separate.[22]

Journalism philosophy[edit]

Since the Dover trial, Ms. Lebo has subscribed to Walter WilliamsJournalist’s Creed, the words of which “remain one of the strongest summations of the guiding principles of our craft”[23] and the Walter Lippman philosophy of “objectivity of method”,[24] rather than the pretense that journalists have no opinions.[12] “If one side is a lie” and the reporter treats it as equal to the other side, that reporter performs a disservice.[8] She also asserted that media consolidation threatens a journalist's “depth and breadth of knowledge (of her/his sources and community) and does a disservice to democracy.”[25]

Journalism awards[edit]

Selected articles[edit]

  • Religion Dispatch articles, 15 pages of links[26]
  • The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools[27]
  • Unregulated Capitalism and Christian Fervor[28]
  • No News Is Bad News[29]
  • ‘Academic Freedom’ is Creationism[30]
  • Intelligent Design Propaganda Is Coming to a Theater Near You[31]
  • Was Guillermo Gonzalez “Expelled”? Intelligent Design and Tenure at Iowa State University[32]

Current career / Activism[edit]

Lauri Lebo has served as the Southern Region Advocacy Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Education Association,[33] a chapter of the National Education Association. She has also served as a spokeswoman.[34]

Lebo is also the Secretary for the ACLU-PA Board of Directors.[35] She won the ACLU-PA 2012 Best published letter to the editor on a civil liberties-related issue (voter ID).[36]

Lebo is a scheduled speaker at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s 39th Annual Convention.[37]


  1. ^ "The Pennsylvania State Education Association". Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  2. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  3. ^ Lebo, Lauri (2009-03-24). The Devil in Dover. The New Press. p. 206.
  4. ^ a b "Intelligent Design on Trial". 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2016-09-04.
  5. ^ a b "Caught in a Culture War". 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  6. ^ a b "Lauri Lebo". The New Press. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  7. ^ a b "Riot Murders of 1969". Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  8. ^ a b c Lauri Lebo - From Dover to DNA: How science-literate communities can change the narrative (speech) (video). Pennsylvania Nonbelievers. 2014-01-19. Retrieved 2016-09-07 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Shiremanstown mayor dies". The Sentinel. 2005-12-31. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  10. ^ Lebo, Lauri (2009-03-24). The Devil in Dover. The New Press. p. 105–106.
  11. ^ Lebo, Lauri (2009-03-24). The Devil in Dover. The New Press. p. 105.
  12. ^ a b c The Devil in Dover and elsewhere: the personal side of the Creationism controversy (speech). Year of Darwin (video). Case Western Reserve. 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2016-09-07 – via YouTube.
  13. ^ a b Lebo, Lauri (2009-03-24). The Devil in Dover. The New Press. Prologue.
  14. ^ a b c Author Lauri Lebo, The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-town America (interview) (podcast). Freethought Radio. 2009-02-09. 149. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  15. ^ Lebo lived close to Three Mile Island
  16. ^ "Biography: Lauri Lebo". Columbia University. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  17. ^ "Darwin in the Dock". The New Yorker. 2005-12-05. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  18. ^ "Afternoon Session" (PDF). National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  19. ^ "Lauri Lebo". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  20. ^ "A Short Goodbye". Religion Dispatches. 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  21. ^ "Terrence McCoy named 2016 Heywood Broun Award winner (Lauri Lebo was a judge)". Washington Post. 2016-07-27. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  22. ^ "Freethought Heroine Award". Freedom From Religion Foundation. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  23. ^ Lebo, Lauri (2009-03-24). The Devil in Dover. The New Press. p. 158.
  24. ^ "The lost meaning of 'objectivity'". American Press Institute. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  25. ^ "FCC Faces Public at Third Official Hearing on Media Consolidation". freepress. 2007-02-21. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  26. ^ "Lauri Lebo". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  27. ^ "The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools". Scientific American. 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  28. ^ "Unregulated Capitalism and Christian Fervor". Progressive Christianity. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  29. ^ "No News Is Bad News". Washington Spectator. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  30. ^ "'Academic Freedom' is Creationism". Sensuous Curmudgeon. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  31. ^ "Intelligent Design Propaganda Is Coming to a Theater Near You". 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  32. ^ "Was Guillermo Gonzalez "Expelled"?". The Skeptics Society. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  33. ^ "PSEA Region Advocacy Coordinators". The Pennsylvania State Education Association. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  34. ^ "PSEA-NEA UniServ Representatives". The Pennsylvania State Education Association. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  35. ^ "Board of Directors". ACLU-PA. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  36. ^ "ACLU-PA Recognizes Chapters". ACLU-PA. 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  37. ^ "Freedom From Religion Foundation National Convention Speakers". Freedom From Religion Foundation. Retrieved 2016-09-08.

External links[edit]