Jun 27, 2008

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today warned Louisiana officials that lawsuits will result if the state’s new anti-evolution law is used to introduce religion into public school classrooms.

Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed the legislation (SB 733), which allows teachers to use “supplemental materials” when discussing evolution. The measure was pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum and the Discovery Institute, two Religious Right groups that advocate creationist concepts, and is widely seen as an effort to water down instruction about evolution.

“I am very disappointed that Gov. Jindal signed this unwise and unnecessary measure,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Louisiana has a long and unfortunate history of trying to substitute dogma for science in public school classrooms. Let me state clearly and upfront that any attempts to use this law to sneak religion into public schools through the back door will not be tolerated.”

Lynn urged Louisiana residents to monitor the situation in their local communities and report any potential violations to Americans United. He noted that the organization has a new chapter in Louisiana and that activists on the ground will be watching developments in the state very closely.

Supporters of the bill, including the Discovery Institute and Sen. Ben Nevers, its primary sponsor, have insisted that the measure is not intended to promote religion. Americans United says it will hold them to that.

“I’ve heard from plenty of people in Louisiana who are embarrassed by this law and are concerned that it’s just another attempt to bring religion into the public schools,” said Lynn. “I call on all concerned residents of Louisiana to help us make sure that public schools educate, not indoctrinate.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.