By Sandhya Bathija
I have to say I like the way Louisiana is headed these days. Last night, a stealth-creationism bill died in the state legislature that would have opened the public school door to religious concepts in science classes.
The measure would have weakened the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s role in approving textbooks for use statewide. It instead would have allowed public school districts to pick the books they like, including those that advocate creationism. Religious Right forces are mad at the state board because it rejected a crusade to include fundamentalist concepts in biology, and this measure was intended to evade the board’s authority.
Fortunately, there is quite a team on the ground in Louisiana these days that diligently worked to stop this dangerous measure. If it weren’t for AU TrusteeBarbara Forrest and her Louisiana Coalition for Science, as well as young activist Zack Kopplin, State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and Dr. Ian Binns – I’m certain students in Louisiana would be in some real trouble.
Forrest’s group issued a press release warning against the measure. Her alert led local news outlets to cover the bill, and several editorials and articles educated the public about the proposal’s dangers.
The Baton Rouge Advocate, for example, opposed HB 580, writing on June 18 that the measure “opens the door to God-only-knows-what bogus theories or religious beliefs disguised as science, history or other subjects.”
James Gill, a Times-Picayune columnist, also weighed in, charging that the bill would make it “easier to subvert scientific principle in the classroom.”
“Creationists,” said Gill, “are in it for the long haul…and they have tried various dodges over the years to sneak their ideas into the curriculum. They have grown more subtle and nowadays conceal religious motive with weasel words.”
In addition, Kopplin worked with Sen. Peterson to convince her fellow senators to vote “no” on HB 580.
Dr. Binns, a Louisiana Coalition for Science member, brought this sneaky piece of legislation to Forrest’s attention and testified against the measure before the House and Senate education committees.
Together, they succeeded in holding off the Senate’s approval of the measure, allowing it to die when the Louisiana legislature adjourned last night at 6 p.m.
The demise of HB 580 is another blow to the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), the state affiliate of Focus on the Family and the primary advocacy group behind attacks on church-state separation in the state.
HB 580’s failure makes it harder for the LFF to inject religion into biology classes into Louisiana’s public schools.
I think we can all agree that’s fantastic news. AU commends Forrest and company on a job well done!