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By Barbara Forrest

There are times when we run across items that simply must be shared. This is one of those times. Alert readers may have read the April 17, 2012, Media Matters (MM) article by Simon Maloy, “The Unscientific Model: ‘Academic Freedom’s’ Creationist Pedigree.” If not, we recommend it, and besides, you need it as background in order to fully appreciate what we will share when you “Continue Reading” below. Maloy has done a good job of showing that the “academic freedom” bills being peddled by the Discovery Institute (DI) are the terminologically sanitized, direct descendants of the “equal time” creation science bills of the early 1980s. Louisiana’s 1981 “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act,” for example, was enacted “for the purposes of protecting academic freedom.”

The Balanced Treatment Act, which required the teaching of “creation science” along with evolution, was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. The Court explicitly rejected the “academic freedom” defense. But losing in court has never deterred creationists. A small band of brave souls simply — and opportunistically — ditched the “young earth” and “flood geology” (that’s Noah‘s flood) and rebranded themselves as “intelligent design theorists.” They also continued to write creationist legislation — except that such bills must now be written as “stealth” bills using code language such as “critical thinking,” as in the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). There is only one teensy-weensy problem: the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) and its disciples just can’t seem to get the “stealth” part down. 

Maloy’s article is primarily about the fact that Tennessee now has its own academic freedom law, aka the Tennessee “monkey bill,” which Gov. Bill Haslam boldly allowed to become law without his signature. (Rather than being properly grateful, Casey Luskin at the Discovery Institute thanked Haslam by dissing him for not actually signing the bill. See also here.) But aside from the fact that Louisiana was the first state to adopt such legislation, there is actually another connection between the new law in the Volunteer State and an old one in the Pelican State.

The “new” Tennessee law is essentially the same as SB 561, the “Louisiana Academic Freedom Act,” which was actually the first bill that Senator Ben Nevers filed in 2008 on behalf of the LFF — and the one with which the verbal slips (read: unintentional truth-telling) began. Sen. Nevers told the April 6, 2008, Hammond Daily Star that he introduced SB 561 because (emphasis added) “They [the LFF]  believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory.” Oops! The stealth patrol had to act fast. LFF director Rev. Gene Mills did some quick clean-up work in the April 11 Daily Star:

This bill is not about teaching creationism or religion. If one reads the language of his bill, it is clear that it simply permits teachers ‘to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.’ [emphasis added]

Whew! That was close. Hopefully, everyone would now stay on script and pretend that the LSEA was all about teaching good science and enhancing critical thinking. Just to be sure, when the LFF and DI realized that there would be opposition to SB 561, they sanitized the language of the bill even more, renumbered it as SB 733, and renamed it the “Louisiana Science Education Act” (LSEA). That fixed everything, right? Lesson learned, right? Actually, not right. Staying on high alert all the time has proven to be too difficult for the Louisiana Stealth Patrol. And here is where things get really delicious.

On April 27, 2012, LFF director Rev. Gene Mills sent out his usual End of Week newsletter, which, during Louisiana’s legislative sessions, keeps the faithful (aka “donors”) apprised of the LFF’s triumphs at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. The newsletter went out this way via e-mail: “From: Louisiana Family forum. Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 2:33 PM. Subject: Another Big Week in Louisiana!”

Mills was gloating about the failure of SB 374, Senator Karen Carter Peterson’s bill to repeal the LSEA, and was badmouthing Media Matters in an effort to discredit Maloy’s article. But he didn’t badmouth everything. He actually liked one of Maloy’s statements, so much that he quoted it verbatim. Here is a screen shot of that part of the newsletter, and we are confident that our alert readers will immediately see why we had to share it in graphic form rather than merely writing about it. Here it is — and read closely:         

 

[section deleted]

 

Did you catch the important part? Good. We thought you would. One of Mills’ alert readers (could it have been Casey Luskin?) must have also caught it and alerted him, because another version of the newsletter went out shortly after the first one: “From: Louisiana Family Forum. Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 4:44 PM. Subject: Another Big Week in Louisiana! CORRECTIONS INCLUDED.” Here, again in graphic form, is the relevant part of the 4:44 PM version of the newsletter. We are confident that our discerning readers will notice the difference:

 

 

Whew! Another close one! But actually, such slips are understandable. It’s just so taxing for creationists to man the barricades of mendacity 24/7/365. Truth is such powerful stuff. Apparently, however, on April 27, Rev. Mills was so busy boasting about his legislative victories in the rest of his newsletter that he didn’t notice the little bit of truth that he forgot to scrub out of the 2:33 PM version. Maybe a professional proofreader would be useful . . .

To make matters worse, the LFF just can’t seem to find anyone in Louisiana to defend the LSEA at public meetings except young-earth creationists (YECs). (See here, here, and here.) Among others, they’ve got Charles Voss, who wrote the creationist textbook addenda at Textaddons.com. They also have John Oller, who hobnobs with Answers in Genesis (AIG) when he is not promoting anti-vaxxer fraud Andrew Wakefield. And they’ve got Darrell White, who is not only a friend of AIG director Ken Ham but also, as Ham reveals, a “lifetime member” of the world-famous Creation Museum! (See White here.)

AIG has been helpful to the LFF. AIG columnist Elizabeth Mitchell helped spread the news that Senator Karen Carter Peterson’s SB 374 to repeal the LSEA failed this year, as SB 70 did last year. In her April 28, 2012, “News to Note” column, Mitchell announced that the LSEA had survived despite the fact that college freshman Zack Kopplin, “without academic credentials or professional experience . . . was nevertheless allowed to share his opinion with the senators during his testimony before the committee and said that ‘the law was hurting Louisiana’s reputation.’”

Imagine Senator Peterson’s letting a student  — who graduated from a public magnet high school, led the repeal effort for two years in a row, and got 78 Nobel Laureates to support the bill — share his opinion in favor of repealing the LSEA! Not to worry, though. Dr. Mitchell assures readers that the LSEA does not permit the teaching of creationism but allows only quality teaching materials in the classroom:

Despite such accusations that LSEA sanctions religious teaching in science classrooms . . . the LSEA does not permit teachers to promote any religious doctrine, and the information they present must be ‘scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.’ State and local school officials are encouraged by the LSEA to offer teachers guidance in choosing these materials. Furthermore, materials (such as lists of thought-provoking questions at www.textaddons.com) are readily available to encourage critical thinking skills in the analysis of controversial scientific positions. . . .

Textaddons?! Where Charles Voss, in his teaching addendum [pdf] for Biology (2004 edition), the well-known textbook by Kenneth Miller and Joe Levine, assures teachers (p. 3) that “Macro-evolution could be said to occur if a dog became a cat or a dinosaur became a bird”? And cites as authoritative sources (p. 9) an article by Creation Ministries International’s Creation Magazine and (on p. 19) the groundbreaking 1984 intelligent design creationist book The Mystery of Life’s Origin? And carefully tucks away on a page called “Outside the Classroom: Valid Topics that Could Cause Litigation” a document [pdf] in which, buttressed by sources such as Creation Ex Nihilo (now the Journal of Creation), he informs teachers that “Calculations reveal that the earth’s age is somewhere between 6 and 10 thousand years old” (p. 3) and that (p. 4) dinosaurs “lived with man”? Oh . . . well, alright then.

With that reassurance, let’s continue. Who else does the LFF have manning the barricades for them?

The LFF’s newest in-state public defender is YEC home-school mom, Suzanne Passman, who testified against SB 374 alongside Rev. Mills at the April 19, 2012, Senate Education Committee hearing. Mills was trying to be careful that day, saying that the LSEA “encourages academic inquiring in the classroom, and that is a laudable constitutional objective.” Mrs. Passman followed by helpfully declaring that the LSEA does not permit the teaching of creationism  — while (oops!) attacking evolution with a rapid-fire presentation of well-known creationist talking points. (See the video here, at 1:16:02). [UPDATE 5.16.12, 3:04 PM: The short clip of Mrs. Passman’s legislative testimony is posted here. Enjoy!]  Her website, Creationevidence.info, includes a most informative page.

We are a creation-based ministry using first and foremost God’s Word, the Bible, to interpret what we see today in observable science.  Creation Evidence will show that the Bible’s biology, anthropology, astronomy, and geology can be explained and trusted. This ministry strives to answer questions that in the past have caused some people to question the validity of the Bible, especially in the realm of the sciences. . . . This ministry takes the Bible literally. We believe that God created everything in six literal days. That there was a literal Adam and Eve, a literal fall, original sin, a literal Garden of Eden, a literal global flood, a literal Ark, and a literal Tower of Babel. By taking the Bible at face value one can explain so many of the questions our youth have today. . . . Did humans evolve from goo to you? . . . 

On her “Science Teacher Resources” page, Mrs. Passman lists URLs for Textaddons, Answers in Genesis, and some outfit called the “Creation Training Initiative,” which offers both “Basic Creation Training” ($45 per student) and “Advanced Creation Apologetics” ($65 per student). She also lists the URL to  . . . wait for it . . . the Discovery Institute, whose “Center for science and culture [sic] is the nations [sic] leading think-tank challenging various aspects of evolutionary theory and supporting research.” Mrs. Passman pretty much repeated her Senate Education Committee performance when she appeared, along with yours truly, at the Baton Rouge Press Club on April 30, 2012. 

The Discovery Institute can take great comfort in knowing that their supporters are on the job down here, protecting DI’s hard-earned victory. As the old saying goes, “With friends like these . . . ”

 

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