Louisiana Legislators Once Again Won’t Uphold the First Amendment

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May 5 2013 8:00 AM

Louisiana State Senate: We <3 Creationism

creationism
This ain't science. I can't believe I have to point this out.

Illustration by Teach the Controversy t-shirts

In 2008, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the “Louisiana Science Education Act” into law. This Orwellian-named bit of legislation was an outrageous attempt to allow creationism to be taught in schools. Jindal has essentially admitted as much.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Outrageous, yes. Damaging to the state, yes. Unconstitutional, absolutely. But it passed.

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Since then, Zack Kopplin (a 19-year-old Rice University student) has been fighting to get it repealed. He’s had a lot of help: Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), 78 Nobel laureates, the city council of New Orleans, and Slate magazine. And many more, including me (many many many times). Even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute thinks it’s a terrible law. Because it is.

But every time a bill is put forth to repeal this awful law, it fails. Kopplin and his team tried again—for the third time—last week. And Louisiana politicians decided, once again, that their personal beliefs trump the United States Constitution.

The repeal failed. The law stands.

But there’s more. Here’s why one legislator voted against the repeal, and, well, it’s a stunner. I hope your desk has a padded top, because otherwise your forehead is going to hurt a lot:

Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said he had reservations with repealing the act after a spiritual healer correctly diagnosed a specific medical ailment he had. He said he thought repealing the act could "lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures."
“Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man—in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed—if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That's not science. I'm not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself,” Guillory said.

Seriously? I mean seriously, seriously?

You should note this well: The repeal lost in a 3-2 vote. Senator Guillory’s vote would’ve been enough to swing the decision the other way. Instead, a half-naked guy threw bones on the ground and probably cold read Guillory, and because of that, in Louisiana it will still be perfectly legal to teach all manners of nonsense instead of giving children a real science education.

That’s more than disgraceful. It’s embarrassing.

Senator Guillory, here is the reality of what you saw, and it pertains to creationism as well: It really wasn't science. It may be belief, it may be religion, it may even be an outright con, but of all the things it is, as you yourself said, it’s not science, and it shouldn’t be taught in science class. Your vote was wrong. It was wrong on the evidence, it was wrong for the children of Louisiana, and it was wrong for the state of Louisiana.

This is bad news, but there’s some light: I’ll note that the repeal does better every time it’s submitted; it lost 5-1 the first time, and 2-1 the second. This third time, it was rejected at 3-2. That’s progress, and Kopplin promises to try yet again. Still, for now, it’s a loss. And the victims of this loss will be the futures of the children in Louisiana.

…and if you do happen to know of people who make medical diagnoses by “throwing some bones on the ground”, then you should let them know they can win a million bucks if they can demonstrate it under testable conditions. Maybe the Louisiana State Senate doesn’t put their trust in evidence and science, but I do. And I’ll bet that million is quite safe.

My thanks to Zack Kopplin, who is tireless and unflagging in his fight against nonsense and antiscience. If this event makes you as angry as it does me, then please go to his site, RepealCreationism, and help out. Americans United is also a great group fighting this kind of unconstitutional chicanery.

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