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By Barbara Forrest

Everyone has heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” With respect to the creationism bill introduced in Montana this year, that should read, “A video clip is worth a thousand words.” Our readers may enjoy (or not) comparing Rep. Clayton Fiscus’s defense of his HB 183 to “to emphasize critical thinking in instruction related to controversial scientific theories on the origin of life” to Louisiana legislators’ responses to Zack Kopplin’s 2011 and 2012 bills to repeal the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). It’s a real contest as to whose legislators are sillier. But as you will see, the outcome in Montana was very different than in Louisiana.

On January 25, 2013, Fiscus defended his bill before the Montana House Education Committee. The Discovery Institute (DI) supported HB 183, including it among the “good academic freedom bills” introduced so far this year. Nonetheless, the committee tabled HB 183 on February 5, a move that should surprise no one given Fiscus’s performance (see video below.) But unlike a similar Colorado bill (which also failed in committee), DI didn’t sent anyone to Montana to speak for it. (Their staff attorney Joshua Youngkin personally testified for the Colorado bill.) That’s probably because HB 183 started out as a bill to “[r]equire public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution.” On November 5, 2012, Rep. Fiscus filed a legislative request to have such a bill drafted. Oh, goodness! The bete noir of every DI strategist — a paper trail!

This prompted the birth of a litter of kittens up in Seattle, judging from DI’s Evolution News & Views November 28 blog post, “On the Prospect of Intelligent Design in Montana Public Schools, Let Us Be Clear” (commentary and bold added):

However well intentioned this draft bill request [read: “For heaven’s sake, Fiscus! You’ll get us hauled into court out there and we’ll get our butts kicked like we did in Dover! Clean this bill up! Make it look as much like the Louisiana bill as you can! Here! We’ll help you!], the best place for mulling intelligent design is in the labs and lecture halls that host the scientific community and its activity [oh, yes, indeed, especially since ID has literally revolutionized the scientific world — see “Understanding Science: How Science Really Works“], and in books and journals read by scientists and non-scientists alike [you mean, like the DI-sponsored “journal” BIO-Complexity, whose editorial team is stacked with American and European creationists and whose editor-in-chief is a Finnish young-earth creationist?]  — not in public schools, statehouses or courtrooms, as these tend to turn science into politics [gee, you guys must have forgotten about your Wedge Strategy vow to “pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula”]. Our priority is to see intelligent design advance as a science, as well as to promote unhindered public discussion on the issue. None of this is to say that we think intelligent design is unconstitutional — hardly. [Oh, really? So why not follow the guidelines that your legal guru, David DeWolf, who helped draw up the LSEA, wrote in your “Legal Guidebook” — i.e.,  that “teachers and school boards who choose to tell students about the evidence and arguments for intelligent design actually fulfill [the Edwards v. Aguillard] Supreme Court mandatethat “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction”?] Rather, we think that intelligent design should not be pushed into public schools because that would politicize the debate and prevent ID from gaining a fair hearing in the scientific community. [Read: “We know — especially since the Kitzmiller verdict — that we can’t legally get away with putting the term ‘intelligent design’ into legislation for public schools, so now we have to use code language.”]

DI’s distress no doubt motivated them to frantically get hold of Fiscus, who obligingly sanitized the wording of his bill to their satisfaction. But that didn’t help. Watch this short video clip of Fiscus’s defense, followed by opponents’ testimony (no supporters other than Fiscus showed up), with closing remarks from Fiscus again. As folks down south say, Rep. Fiscus’s performance was “plumb pitiful.” Then watch a couple of clips from the 2011 and 2012 Louisiana Senate Education Committee hearings of Zack Kopplin’s repeal bill. 




Here is former Louisiana senator and Senate Education Committee member Julie “I-Am-An-Attorney” Quinn at the 2011 LSEA repeal hearing, during which she superciliously insulted everyone with a terminal degree — the people with the “little letters behind their names.”  




Finally, here is current Louisiana senator and Senate Education Committee member Mike Walsworth, who, at the 2012 repeal hearing, “embarrassed himself,” to quote Zack, by simply trying to read a set of creationist talking points that someone (from the Louisiana Family Forum?) had handed him.  




We pose the question again: Whose legislators were sillier — Montana’s or Louisiana’s? A repeal bill will no doubt be filed again this year in Louisiana. Would it be too much to ask for the Senate Education Committee to be concerned about how they make our state look to the rest of the world?



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