“Taking a Stand for Jesus” in the Public Schools

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, says that creationists are proof of evolution. They keep evolving their message—from creationism to intelligent design to “academic freedom.”

If I may hammer the metaphor a little further, their vestigial gaffes also appear to offer proof of their shared ancestry.

Earlier this week, the Livingston Parish School District in Louisiana decided against pursuing creationism in science class for the upcoming school year. A discussion last week about the possibility was in response to Lousiana’s Science Education Act, which opens the door to teaching creationism under the guise of “academic freedom.” At a meeting last month, district officials said they wanted to explore the possibility.

But according to an article Sunday in Baton Rouge’s The Advocate, board members shied away amid fears of a costly lawsuit which almost certainly would arise. (Amazing how quickly these folks forget their own state history. The 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Edwards v. Aguillard, which ruled that the teaching of creationism in public school science class violated the Establishment Clause, was a test case of Louisiana’s Balanced Treatment Act.)

The article includes this stunningly familiar quote from a board member:

David Tate, the School Board member who brought up the matter at the board’s last meeting, said he would rather not see litigation, but added that the board gets sued on other matters.

“We don’t want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation,” Tate said.

In 2004, Dover Area School Board member Bill Buckingham, in defending the teaching of creationism in science class, made the statement, “Two thousand years ago, someone died on the cross. Won’t someone stand up for him?”

Buckingham’s famous remark, about which he later lied and denied saying at a public meeting before about 100 people, became one of the key issues in the Kitzmiller v. Dover constitutional test case of intelligent design. The statement made clear his religiously-based motivation—a constitutional no no. For those who don’t remember how the trial ended, refresh your memory here. (Hint: Didn’t go well for the intelligent design/creationists.)

So that Tate used almost the same religious language as Buckingham provides a direct link back to the last time creationists got walloped in court, proving once again it’s all about forcing their Christian beliefs on our children.

Perhaps Tate suffered from what my friend and columnist Mike Argento described as Buckingham’s Homer Simpson moment, in which the board member, when finally confronted on the stand with his own words about creationism, finally admitted saying it, but then said he only said it because he was trying not to say to it. If you can follow that.

To paraphrase Argento, maybe Tate had it in his head that he wasn’t supposed to talk about standing up for Jesus. “Don’t say take a stand for Jesus. Don’t say take a stand for Jesus. D’oh!”