Louisiana lawmakers kill repeal of unconstitutional creationism law
The Louisiana House Education Committee killed a measure to repeal a 1981 creationism law on Wednesday, even though the Supreme Court had ruled it was unconstitutional.
“There’s no good reason to keep an unconstitutional law on the books,” Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, told Raw Story via email. “But since a law which has been struck down is dead letter, the choice to remove it is symbolic, too.”
An amendment to Senate Bill 205, an education bill to expand foreign language immersion programs, would have repealed the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act. But the committee voted to remove the amendment.
The Balanced Treatment Act prohibited public schools from teaching the theory of evolution unless the instruction was accompanied by so-called “creation science.”
The Supreme Court ruled in the 1987 decision Aguillard v. Edwards that the law was “clearly” intended “to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind” and therefore violated the First Amendment. The decision left the law unenforceable, but it still remains on the books.
Rosenau noted that state Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) had said he opposed repealing the Balanced Treatment Act just in case the Supreme Court ever reversed its decision.
“This vote is a reminder that recent battles over the misnamed Louisiana Science Education Act, and dozens of similar laws introduced across the country, are part of a larger and longer battle,” he added. “Today’s efforts may be less overtly religious, but only because that’s the strategy necessary to evade court scrutiny. If today’s advocates of intelligent design and ‘critical analysis of evolution’ had their druthers, they’d be passing ’80s-style equal time laws, or the sorts of outright bans on teaching evolution which brought us 1925’s Scopes trial.”
Earlier this month, the state’s Senate rejected a proposal to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which indirectly allows public schools to teach creationism as science. The bill was proposed by Nevers at the behest of the Louisiana Family Forum and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in 2008.
For many, a Democratic politician supporting creationism in public schools would be unthinkable. But what might be political suicide for a Democrat in New York was acceptable in Louisiana due to the state’s current political situation.
“In Louisiana, the great political realignment that followed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts is still playing out, so there are some very conservative Democrats in the state government who back bills like the Balanced Treatment Act and the LSEA,” Rosenau said.
Rosenau, who first battled creationists on the Kansas board of education in 2005, also said there were significant divisions within Christianity.
“Louisiana is a state traditionally dominated by Catholic politicians, but recent years have brought growing influence by evangelical Protestants,” he explained. “Groups like the Louisiana Family Forum, an affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, have reportedly left Catholic politicians fearful of being tarred as anti-Christian if they oppose the radical, right-wing, evangelical Protestant agenda.”
“The Pope and much of the Catholic hierarchy are pro-evolution, and evolution is freely taught at major Catholic high schools and middle schools. Catholic colleges and universities like Loyola and Notre Dame are major hubs of evolutionary research. The anti-evolution agenda represents a small wing of evangelical Protestantism, not Christianity in general.”
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