Gather round, everyone, and let me tell you the story of Mississippi State Rep. Mark Formby, who is pushing a bill in his state to allow for the teaching of creationism science classes there.
Per The Huffington Post:
House Bill 50 “encourages students to explore scientific questions” and allows teachers to discuss “weaknesses” in the approved curriculum. The bill doesn’t mention creationism by name but refers specifically to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning. (source)
It appears that “explore scientific questions” and “discuss weaknesses in the approved curriculum” are just updated versions of “Teach the controversy.” That notion comes from religious conservatives who don’t want evolution taught as fact in their kids science classrooms, so they push for science teachers to tell the kids, essentially, “Now that we’ve learned what science has proven over more than a century of research, let me tell you about what some people who live in an alternate reality believe.”
Apparently Rep. Fornby just isn’t a fan of the First Amendment. Or he’s one of the many evangelical Christians who has a fundamentally flawed idea of what “religious freedom” means. It doesn’t mean that you get to foist your religious influence on people who don’t want it, and it certainly doesn’t mean your fellow taxpayers footing the bill so you can turn your kids’ school into a damn church. It means no one is going to pass a law saying you can’t practice your religion, that’s it.
Formby is the latest conservative to confuse his right to practice his religion with a right to indoctrinate people against their will. Perhaps it’s because they fundamentally misunderstand what the words “theory,” “law,” and “hypothesis” actually mean in scientific terms, but religious conservatives hold tight to the fact that “proof” of evolution isn’t something you can just put in your pocket and show people. Among academically accredited scientists, there is no weakness, flaw, or controversy regarding evolution. It’s a thing, and it’s pretty irrefutable, unless you prefer burying your head in the sand.
What really burns me up about bills like this one is that they’re so blatantly unconstitutional. It’s going to just cost the people of Mississippi millions of dollars to be disappointed. They’ll say it’s a good expense, but the rest of us will point to this incident when we’re having to chip in even more of our tax dollars so their kids can eat, as well as be taught the earth is flat and 6,000 years old.
This story is the perfect argument for a federal Department of Education, too. There is nothing criminal or wrong about your kid getting a religious lesson; it should just come from a religious school, not a public one. The wall that separates government from religion is there for a reason, and if you need to know what that reason is, it’s spelled, “T-A-L-I-B-A-N.” Politicians like Rep. Formby don’t like the comparison to Muslim extremists in other countries, but it’s apt. Sure, Formby’s not out with an AK-47 shooting girls who want education, but he’s most certainly trying to bend the information that children in his state get through an extreme, religious point of view, isn’t he?
To deny kids access to reality is in my mind child abuse. No one in their right mind things a child shouldn’t be allowed to be taught religious lessons by their parents, or a church their parents attend. But why should kids of parents who aren’t religious be forced to have their kids be given scientifically-illiterate information if they don’t want to? The street runs both ways, and all of this is why the Separation of Church and State should be honored in the first place.
In the end it’s really the simplest formula possible: religious teaching goes in religious buildings, and secular teaching goes everywhere else. So simple, even a Republican could ignore it.