An important principle in first amendment jurisprudence is that government actions must not be undertaken solely for the benefit of religion. In 1987, the Supreme Court considered a law passed by Louisiana that required teachers who presented “evolution-science” to “balance” it with “creation-science.” Legislators insisted that the bill had valid secular purposes, but the Supreme Court’s majority opinion insisted that “While the Court is normally deferential to a State’s articulation of a secular purpose, it is required that the statement of such purpose be sincere and not a sham.”
This brings us to modern Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal is considering whether to veto or sign SB 733, the mis-named Louisiana Science Education Act. While the bill purports to encourage critical thinking and open discussion of various scientific topics, it singles out evolution (along with global warming and cloning) as topics deserving special attention.
This, in and of itself, undermines the claim to secular purpose. Evolution is no more scientifically controversial than gravity, and Governor Jindal surely knows that. His own college biology professor reminded him recently that “Without evolution, modern biology, including medicine and biotechnology, wouldn’t make sense. In order for today’s students in Louisiana to succeed in college and beyond, in order for them to take the fullest advantages of all that the 21st century will offer, they need a solid grounding in genetics and evolution.” Brown’s professor Arthur Landy, a distinguished member of the medical school faculty, added “Governor Jindal was a good student in my class when he was thinking about becoming a doctor, and I hope he doesn’t do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana’s doctors.”
Landy’s statement helps us root out one particular sham on display in Louisiana. In an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, a local college professor told Jindal to ignore what he learned. Wade Warren, a biology professor at Louisiana College, told CBN that “Not all DNA and fossil evidence support a Darwinian view of life.” If comments in support of evolution like Professor Landy’s (or the many statements collected in Voices for Evolution) don’t show this to be a sham, consider the source of the statement.
Louisiana College has a strict requirement that faculty and staff “exemplify a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ.” Not only are they strongly encouraged to attend weekly chapel services, but they are “expected to abstain from … the use of alcoholic beverages in public.” They are also obliged to affirm that “Genesis 1–11 is factual,” who “deny that … scientific hypotheses about earth history or the origin of humanity may be invoked to overthrow what Scripture teaches about creation.”
The sham of claiming this bill isn’t about creationism was put to the lie early on, when supporter David Tate, a member of the Livingston Parish school board, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune “I believe that both sides — the creationism side and the evolution side — should be presented and let students decide what they believe.” He added that the bill was necessary because “teachers are scared to talk about” creationism. Bill sponsor Senator Ben Nevers (D‑Bogalusa) acknowledge that he merely submitted it on behalf of the Louisiana Family Forum, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. Nevers told the Hammond Daily Star “They [LFF] believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory.”
The time has come to tell Governor Jindal to veto this bill.
Call Governor Jindal and tell him to veto this bill.
Phone: 225–342-7015 or 866–366-1121 (Toll Free)
Appeal to his own understanding of the science. Tell him about the importance of our first amendment rights. Tell him about the million dollar judgment that followed the failure of creationism in Dover, PA.
Tell him that conservatives and liberals agree this bill is bad. John Derbyshire recently called on Jindal to “Veto This Bill!,” emphasizing that “The entire effect of this law … will be that one cartload of Louisiana taxpayers’ money will go to the Discovery Institute for their mendacious ‘textbooks,’ then another cartload will go into the pockets of lawyers to defend the inevitable challenge to the law in federal courts, which will inevitably be successful, as they always are, and should be.”
There are other reasons conservatives are concerned about this bill. A provision added in the state’s House of Representatives allows the state to veto the use of certain supplementary textbooks, but gives no guidance about which should be vetoed and which permitted. This is a massive shift of power away from locally elected school boards, and the Governor himself has opposed attempts to insert the state government into these issues. Two weeks ago, he told Face the Nation, “I don’t think this is something the federal or state government should be imposing its views on local school districts. You know, as a conservative I think government that’s closest to the people governs best. I think local school boards should be in a position of deciding the curricula and also deciding what students should be learning.”
If the state is given the power to review these textbooks, that will take time and money away from other state education issues, adding to this bill’s costs. The size of state government will grow, lawsuits will sprout like wildflowers, and Louisianan kids will be held back from the education they deserve and will need in the 21st century.