Kansas, Move Over!

Louisiana Making Bid to Become Nation’s New Creationism

In action taken earlier this week, Louisiana legislators moved their state to the head of the list of states vying for the dubious distinction of replacing Kansas as the nation’s prime creationism hot spot. On Tuesday, the state’s House Education Committee voted 9 to 5 in favor of a resolution rejecting what its sponsors called "Darwinist ideology" and condemning its use "to justify and approve racist practices."

The Louisiana resolution further justifies its condemnation of Darwin on a claim that he was responsible for Adolph Hitler’s perversion of evolutionary theory to support his belief in an Aryan master race nearly a century after Darwin published his scientific theory. The attempt to blame Darwin for Hitler, which has been discredited by scientists and historians alike, is a recurring theme among some creationist groups. Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Science, for example, devote considerable web-site space to this topic. However, Louisiana may be the only state ever to have moved to elevate this bizarre and baseless idea to the level of official state policy. The resolution moves next to the full House.

"We are urging the legislature to reject this creationist-inspired assault on science education that the House Education Committee has cooked up in Louisiana," said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation. "The children of Louisiana deserve the best possible science education, one that includes a full exploration of evolutionary theory and its pivotal role in modern science."

The national furor over the creationism-evolution battle has largely died down since the people of Kansas voted creationists off the state’s Board of Education, thus bringing about the reversal of a controversial August 1999 decision to stop the teaching of evolution. Yet creationists have continued pushing their ersatz science out of the spotlight around the country. A new report just released by People For the American Way Foundation details recent creationists’ activities across 28 states.

The report, entitled Creationism in 2001: A State-by-State Report, reveals a concerted and troubling campaign launched by the Religious Right to deny science teachers the authority to teach their classes the most authoritative scientific information about the origins of life. Earlier this year, for example, bills limiting instruction on evolution have been introduced in the state legislatures of Michigan and Arkansas. The Michigan bill goes so far as to require students to explain why, under creationism, "life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator."

"The Religious Right has shown it will sacrifice good teaching and good science to accomplish its goal of eroding the constitutional separation of church and state," said Neas. "Sadly, our school children and their education are the victims of these attacks."

The report catalogues several ways in which creationists aim to promote creationism and suppress instruction on evolution: changing the law; rewriting the curriculum; replacing the word ‘evolution’ with ‘changes over time’ in state and local science teaching standards and texts; forcing textbook companies to include a statement that evolution is ‘controversial’ or ‘that human life was created by one God of the Universe’; and even changing the name of creationism itself.

"Creationism has failed in the courts and at the polls time and time again," said Neas. "Now the Right has ‘intelligent design’ theory, a sort of creationism-lite that’s supposed to fly beneath the radar screen."

The report also reveals the means creationists are employing to effect their changes: targeting state and local school boards, stacking textbook committees and curriculum committees, rewriting school libraries’ purchasing and donation acceptance policies, and otherwise attempting to gain control over teachers, administrators and state and local legislators.

Creationism in 2001 details the Religious Right's attempts to insert creationism in science classrooms and/or remove evolution in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and nationally.

To download a copy of Creationism in 2001: A State-by-State Report, go to http://pfaw.org/issues/education/creationism_report.pdf. To receive a copy by e-mail, fax, or mail, contact Jason Young at jyoung@pfaw.org or Melissa Dorfman at mdorfman@pfaw.org or call 202-467-4999.

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