Disco. vocalist Rob Crowther wonders What Part of “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine” do his opponents not understand? Writing about SB 733, a creationist bill winging its way to Governor Bobby “The Exorcist II” Jindal, Crowther points out that:
Section 1D of the bill clearly states that it “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”
Why is it, then, that “a slew of articles have been running in which activists like Barbara Forrest make the false claim that [SB 733] opens the door to religion in the classroom”?
In a press release issued last night, Forrest commented that “It allows local school boards to open the doors of public school science classrooms to creationism with the blessing of the state,” and in a press release after the state House of Representatives passed the bill, Forrest said, “Despite their denials, even the bill’s backers know that SB 733 is a creationist bill written in creationist code language.”
In other words, Forrest is talking about a specific sort of religion, creationism. The usual ID dodge is to insist that their form of creationism is not actually religion. For instance, in the defendants response to the suit filed by parents and teachers in Dover, PA, the Disco.-coached ID advocates on the Dover school board insistently “den[ied] that intelligent design is an ‘inherently religious’ concept if that phrase is taken to mean a concept that is only known or accepted as a result of religious faith as opposed to reason and science.” Later, the filing defends a statement by former school board member Bill Buckingham that “nowhere in the Constitution does it call for a separation of church and state,” which the lawyers parse as Buckingham’s “observation that teachers would not be teaching religion in Dover School District  in the event the Board, after due deliberation, decided to modify the biology curriculum for the purpose of ensuring that students were made aware of the controversy in the scientific community concerning various aspects of evolutionary theory.” (Quotes are from the defense’s Answer to Complaint, filed January 3, 2005.)
This is, of course, exactly what teachers in Louisiana would claim.
The result in Dover was a million dollar bill to the school district, and a scathing rebuke from the Judge. Judge Jones referred to Buckingham’s statement about separation of church and state as one of “several outwardly religious statements” made at that Board meeting, and concluded his landmark ruling by stating that:
To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.
The same thing will happen in Louisiana, and all the figleaf of section 1D will do is encourage teachers or school boards (as in Dover) to make expensive mistakes. In passing this bill, the legislature opened the door to big trouble. Jindal can still protect the students of Louisiana from miseducation, and the school districts from costly and distracting lawsuits. Here’s hoping he’ll do the right thing.