Bobby Jindal knows better. The Louisiana governor majored in biology and public policy at Brown University, and he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. So why is he defending the teaching of religious concepts in public school science classes?
Last Friday, in an interview with NBC’s Hoda Kotb, Jindal said he is perfectly fine with sneaking a little fundamentalist theology into the regular biology curriculum.
“We have,” he said, “what’s called the [Louisiana] Science Education Act that says that if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board is okay with that, if the state school board is okay with that, they can supplement those materials.
“Bottom line, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be exposed to the best facts,” Jindal continued. “Let’s teach them about the Big Bang theory, let’s teach them about evolution, let’s teach them — I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let’s teach them about ‘intelligent design.’”
There you have it. Jindal, in one swoop, dismisses sound science education and church-state separation. In his view, it’s perfectly fine to indoctrinate children in the tenets of religion in public school science class! Amazing!
When the Louisiana legislature passed the misnamed Science Education Act in 2008, top science, education and civil liberties leaders begged Jindal to veto the bill. Even some of his former professors joined the throng.
According to the Times-Picayune, Arthur Landy, who taught Jindal at Brown, released a statement saying “Gov. Jindal was a good student in my class when he was thinking about becoming a doctor, and I hope he doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors."
Jindal ignored the experts and signed the measure into law.
How do we explain this? It’s easy. Jindal is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) and its Religious Right allies. He was elected with strong support from the state’s fundamentalist political forces, and he misses no opportunity to pay them back. His staff has included Religious Right operatives, and he has appointed those folks to commissions and government agencies.
Jindal even jetted around the state at taxpayer expense to campaign – oops, I mean, worship – at fundamentalist churches. (Jindal is Roman Catholic, but when it comes to evangelizing voters, he gets downright ecumenical.)
In addition to signing the anti-evolution law, Jindal has ramrodded through the legislature a radical voucher scheme that funds religious schools – even schools that teach religion in science class. Even schools that think the Loch Ness Monster is swimming about in Scotland. Even schools that teach racially offensive concepts in history and geography. (The voucher scheme is being challenged at the Louisiana Supreme Court right now.)
As The New York Times reported back in 2008, “At the [LFF’s] modest offices here, Mr. Jindal is seen as practically one of the family.”
The Rev. Gene Mills, LFF executive director, told The Times, “I believe there are some philosophical principles we share, that naturally put us closer. There are a lot of shared values.”
And what are those values? The LFF says it seeks to apply “biblical principles” to all government policies. In practice, that means taxpayer funding for religious schools and ministries, religion in public schools, a ban on abortion, no civil rights for gay people, etc.
Nothing has changed since that Times article five years ago. The governor is still doing the Religious Right’s bidding at every turn.
In December of 2012, for example, Jindal issued a proclamation asking the “One True God” to “establish and bless a New Louisiana, to release His grace upon us, to cleanse and heal our land of all unrighteousness, to fill this land with His glory, and to expand the redemptive influences of our state beyond our borders so that His glory may be known through us in the earth.”
In other words, Jindal wants to make his little Louisiana theocracy a divinely mandated model for other states. (BTW, the folks the governor issued this particular proclamation for are on the religious-political fringes. Our friends in Louisiana say they appear to be part of the Apostolic Prayer Network/Intercessors for Louisiana crowd that wages “spiritual warfare” for total fundamentalist control of the government.)
Jindal usually doesn’t publicly play up his ties to the Religious Right, of course. That might rankle Americans who support strong public schools where their kids can get a decent education. It also might irritate folks who believe in an America where the government doesn’t play favorites when it comes to faith and all Americans are equal regardless of what you believe about religion.
But don’t be fooled. Jindal is the front man for a movement that wants to base our government on “biblical principles,” not church-state separation, and that’s downright scary.
PS: Student activist Zack Kopplin, the Louisiana Coalition for Science and the Louisiana AU Chapter are campaigning to expose the attacks on science education in the Pelican State. They would like to see the Science Education Act repealed, although that’s an uphill struggle in the legislature.