Every year at the Values Voter Summit in September, the Religious Right makes sure to put its young activists in the limelight. They serve as a reminder (and a warning) that the fundamentalist political agenda will be pushed for years to come.
Fortunately, advocates of church-state separation have our own youth activists ready to take them on. Baton Rouge, La., high school senior Zack Kopplin is a good example.
In February, Kopplin launched a campaign to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), a measure that Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law in 2008. Back then, Americans United warned that it was merely another attempt by creationists to slip fundamentalist religion into public school science courses.
The statute allows teachers to introduce into the classroom “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” about evolution.
Kopplin, has asked Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) to introduce a bill repealing this law, which she just did on Friday.
"Louisiana's top priority must be to educate our children so they can compete for the high-paying jobs that we want to create in Louisiana," she said. “Louisiana's 'job killing' creationism law undermines our education system and drives science- and technology-based companies away from Louisiana."
SB 70, if passed, could come just in time to avoid serious damage to Louisiana’s public education. The Livingston Parish School Board is already taking steps to make creationism part of its curriculum, and the Tangipahoa Parish School Board is also exploring using the law to teach creationism.
Kopplin said he couldn’t stand to see that happen in his home state.
"Louisiana public school students deserve to be taught accurate and evidence-based science which will prepare them to take competitive jobs," said Kopplin. "When you look up creationism on CareerBuilder.com and other job sites, you find zero creationist jobs. That's right, there are zero creationist jobs."
Kopplin is a smart kid who recognizes what the LSEA costs his state. The creationist law has already damaged Louisiana’s reputation with the science community.
In August 2008, the president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology called on scientific societies to boycott any states that pass creationist legislation. On Feb. 5, 2009, leaders of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology informed Gov. Jindal that they would hold its 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, rather than New Orleans, and that they will not return to Louisiana while the LSEA remains in effect.
Not to mention, under the LSEA, Louisiana’s future generations will be learning bad science.
It’s time for more youngsters to follow in Kopplin’s footsteps. Teaching creationism, a religious belief, in public schools violates the Constitution and contradicts several Supreme Court rulings. Today’s kids should know their rights and not be afraid to take a stance. After all, it’s their future at stake.
AU Trustee Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, is also backing SB 70 along with the Louisiana Coalition for Science, which she co-founded.
If you live in Louisiana, join with Kopplin, Forrest and the Louisiana Coalition for Science. Call your Senate Education Committee members and their respective House and Senate representatives. Ask them to vote in favor of SB 70.