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By Barbara Forrest

There are times when the irony of life is so thick that one has to just stand back and marvel at it. Now is one of those times in Louisiana. June 25, 2010, marked exactly two years to the day since Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). Now, with coastal wildlife trapped and dying in sludge, with the human beings of the Gulf Coast facing the loss of culture, livelihoods, and our beautiful wetlands — courtesy of BP — Gov. Jindal felt called to set aside June 27 as an official day of prayer for divine assistance in “persevering” through this mess — and to post the call to prayer on his official state website. In 2008, his constituents couldn’t even get him to acknowledge the letters he got from scientists and citizens who asked him to veto the LSEA. But now, with the Gulf of Mexico hemorrhaging oil, he was only too happy to sign an official proclamation declaring a “Statewide Day of Prayer for Perseverance Through Oil Spill Crisis” [pdf]. The irony of this is as thick as the oil in the Gulf.

UPDATE, June 29, 2010: Hat tip to Bill Berkowitz in his guest commentary for Buzzflash.com, “Praying Away the Oil, BP’s Oil-Spewing Disaster: It’s God’s Message to America, Conservative Christian Evangelicals Say.” Berkowitz seems to have found the explanation for the official prayer vigil on June 27 at Charisma Magazine‘s News Online: “Governors Declare Day of Prayer for Gulf Spill.” The Charisma article confirms that David Barton drafted the basic prayer proclamation, which the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi could adapt for their states. It also quotes Cindy Jacobs, co-founder of the U.S. Reformation Prayer Network, who has been coordinating prayer efforts. Jacobs’ belief about the cause of the oil spill seems to shed some light on Gene Mills’ strange assessment (see below) of the oil gusher as the “second spiritual assault” on New Orleans:

Jacobs believes the oil spill is more than a natural disaster but partly the result of greed, debauchery on the beaches, poor environmental stewardship and a lack of U.S. support for Israel—all issues her network has been repenting of since the leak began.

‘Whenever there’s violent weather or some things like this, you have to ask if it’s just a natural disaster or if you’re reaping something that’s been sown,’ she said. ‘We feel this is a cumulative thing.’

Resume original post:

The official praying actually started on Monday, June 21, in the Memorial Hall (front lobby) of the Louisiana State Capitol, as we are informed by the Louisiana Family Forum, which distributed the governor’s official proclamation [pdf]. (Are we surprised?) According to the LFF’s June 22, 2010, Family Facts newsletter, “lawmakers, pastors, and intercessors joined Representative Regina Barrow, Senator Sharon Broome, and Governor Bobby Jindal  for a Prayer Vigil concerning the Deepwater Horizon Oil Explosion.” Also prominently featured in the LFF’s newsletter is a picture of Jindal undergoing the laying on of hands (the hands are unidentified). The Family Facts article also notes that “Governor Jindal read Psalms 146.” (See the LFF’s YouTube video of the 2007 pre-inaugural Christmas gala that LFF threw for him, at which he likewise underwent the laying on of hands in front of hundreds of attendees, with Rev. Mills presiding [at 2:17].)

It is ironic that Jindal could not squeeze into his schedule even one personal response to the Louisiana citizens, scientists, and teachers who implored him to protect the teaching of science in the state’s public schools. Yet he always seems to be available for the LFF’s political-religious photo ops, such as its 2009 Annual Legislative Awards Banquet, at which the LFF gives awards to Louisiana legislators who vote their way. So his finding room in his schedule for the prayer photo op is entirely typical of the way Jindal allots his gubernatorial time. The LFF asks, and the LFF receives. (See the Baton Rouge Advocate’s excellent June 28 editorial, “Bible Frauds on the March,” about the LFF’s power over the Louisiana legislature.)

The fact that people would turn to prayer is not surprising. Devout residents all along the Gulf Coast are understandably turning to anything they think will help. A good deal of prayer has been prompted in Louisiana in recent years by the well-known catastrophes that have blown in from the Gulf of Mexico. When people face losing everything they love, prayer is a source of hope and comfort. However, the irony of our anti-science governor signing a prayer proclamation when he would not sign his name to protect the teaching of science is a bit much. Yet it is to be expected in light of the fact that Jindal has thrown in lock, stock, and barrel with the extreme Religious Right. Vetoing the LSEA in 2008 would have meant breaking ranks with Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) director Rev. Gene Mills, who — being as much a political operative as a man of the cloth — is one of Jindal’s unofficial right-hand men. Mills orchestrated the passage of the LSEA. (See “Holy Warriors,” Jeremy Alford’s informative May 26, 2010, story on Mills and the LFF.)

As it turns out — unsurprisingly — Mills also announced that he orchestrated the drafting of the prayer proclamation (which is posted on the governor’s official website). He says that Louisianians have not prayed enough about the oil catastrophe. In his June 24, 2010, e-mail to LFF supporters, he observed that despite the fact that “America has assembled the brightest minds, the newest technology and America’s finest for 65 consecutive days to seal this breach in the Gulf of Mexico,” we have “failed to . . . corporately ‘pause and pray’ and admit that our efforts are futile without the assistance of the Almighty!” So an official proclamation from the governor was needed. (Note the additional irony of the double-entendre in Mills’s exhortation that Louisianians must “corporately” pray that God will help us get rid of BP’s oily deluge.) In a remark aimed directly at other ministers, Mills divulges that he had help in drafting the proclamation:

Pastors, I requested that Governor Jindal initiate this call and have been assisted by David Barton of Wallbuilders, Tony Perkins of Family Research Council and others in crafting the proclamation and implementing its directive.

Most readers have heard of Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state legislator who helped found the LFF and now wages nation-wide culture war from Washington, DC, as head of the Family Research Council. (Perkins pulled some creationist shenanigans of his own during his time in the legislature.) But David Barton, a Republican political operative in Texas who poses as a historian, is less recognizable in Louisiana. Barton founded Wallbuilders, an organization devoted to “presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage” — in other words, he spreads Religious Right propaganda about the Founding Fathers. (Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State exposed Barton’s pseudo-scholarship almost twenty years ago. See “Sects, Lies and Videotape: David Barton’s Distorted History.”)

Barton was one of the “expert” reviewers whom the far-right contingent of the Texas Board of Education selected to screw up the Texas history standards earlier this year. (Boston points out Barton’s “credentials” for this task: “Barton earned a bachelor’s degree in ‘Christian Education’ from Oral Roberts University in 1976 and later taught math and science at a fundamentalist Christian school founded by his father.” See also the extensive information on Barton at Texas Freedom Network’s excellent TFN Insider blog.)

It turns out that Barton is also a buddy of Bobby Jindal. He accompanied Jindal on a campaign tour of Baptist churches in North Louisiana in October 2006, after which Jindal was a guest (two days in a row) on Barton’s Wallbuilders Live! radio program. Jindal gushed to the audience about what a knowledgeable historian Barton is. (See “Governor Jindal’s Friends in Low Places” here.) So Jindal reveals that he is not only anti-science but — through his chummy association with Barton — anti-history as well. Mills’ partnering with Barton on the Louisiana prayer proclamation simply continues the close working relationship that exists among Jindal, Barton, Perkins, and Mills himself.

So Rev. Mills pulled together his divinely inspired effort to protect the Gulf Coast. Actually, ten days after the rig explosion, in his April 30, 2010, End of Week newsletter, he had already issued a call to prayer — which included a weird, ambiguous comment about a “spiritual assault” on New Orleans:

It is not coincidental that this event occurred at precisely the point Katrina tracked and struck its destructive blow to New Orleans. This second spiritual assault warrants that we “Cry Out for success in the Gulf!” [Katrina link is Mills'.]

Next, in a call for fasting as well, he provided a prayer, which, among other things, asked God to inflict the oil on someone else (look out Cuba!):

As we are led by the Holy Spirit, let us pray…

  • For God’s hand upon His creation, the land, the sea, and the winds. “Father, direct and command prevailing winds to move southward. We call forth the green grass of our wetlands to thrive and flourish!” [underlining added]

Now for the final irony: Almost two months later, in his June 4 End of Week newsletter, “Drills, Spills, and Bills” (in which he updates readers on his lobbying successes at the Capitol), Mills is defending BP against the prospect of prosecution. Referring indirectly to the Obama administration’s announcement that there will be a criminal investigation, he makes no mention of the fact that eleven human beings — husbands, dads, sons, brothers, buddies — are dead because of BP — twelve if you count the recent, tragic suicide of Alabama fisherman Allen “Rookie” Kruse. And domestic violence calls have tripled in beautiful little Bayou La Batre, Alabama. (Family values, anyone?) But Mills is concerned about BP’s stock ratings:

[Obama's] policy decisions to close drilling and proceed with criminal investigations appear counter-intuitive, calculated, and politically theatrical. BP’s stock fell dramatically within minutes of the criminal investigation announcement! How will Louisiana subrogate against an [sic] bankrupt BP?

Obama has repeatedly charged BP with withholding information… does he really expect they will suddenly be forthcoming with all the latest intelligence now that their every word and action may be used against them in Congressional Investigation?  This is all a sad show for the media and the American people to avoid culpability. May God have mercy on our coast!

There isn’t much else to say after this revelation, is there? Except to recall — once again — that, under the governorship of Bobby Jindal, Gene Mills is calling the shots on Louisiana science education policy. Have mercy, indeed.

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