The controversy “will never be over”

The Orlando Sentinel’s School Zone blog posted a short story about the new “controversial theories” bill recently filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley: Sen. Baxley files school bill to require ‘controversial’ science topics be taught in ‘balanced’ way.

State Sen. Dennis Baxley, who once said controversy about evolution being taught in public schools “will never be over,” wants to make Florida school districts teach “controversial theories” in science subjects in a “balanced” manner.

It’s just a quick story with no new quotes. I imagine details will emerge when reporters can interview Baxley after the Thanksgiving holiday. Nonetheless, the word about this bill is starting to spread. A reporter for the Palm Beach Democrat offered a strong opinion about it:

Baxley is the former executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, and similar language has been used in other states to force science classes to treat evolution as though it were controversial when it is not. Neither is climate change. Or the moon landing. As a journalist, I’m all about being factual, objective and balanced, but I also don’t feel a need to get a quote from a flat-earther every time I mention our planet.

The story is also making the rounds on Twitter where one person tweeted: “Bills going nowhere for $500 Alex.” In other words, that person is predicting the bill will sputter and die. We absolutely can’t let that dismissive attitude flourish! We must treat this bill seriously and do everything we can to defeat it. Keep in mind these points:

  • Baxley sponsored last session’s Religious Liberties in Schools bill (link goes to our blog category of all posts on that topic) that successfully became law. This law will eventually open up a Pandora’s Box of trouble for a school district should any teachers or school staff decide that it protects their right to freely express religious beliefs to students.
  • Last session’s horrible Instructional Materials bill (link goes to our blog category of all posts on that topic) successfully became law and has already led to one school district having to deal with a citizen protesting evolution’s place in the schools’ textbooks. It’s not a matter of if, but when more complaints pop up.
  • The Instructional Materials bill was written and heavily promoted by the Florida Citizens Alliance. That group went on the record several times complaining about evolution and climate change: “[Florida Citizens’ Alliance’s Keith] Flaugh said his group will use it [Religious Liberties bill] in conjunction with the instructional materials bill to contest textbooks that demonstrate ‘bias toward Islam and seldom mention Christianity,’ and promote those that push for a Christian view of the origins of life. ‘Darwin’s theory is a theory, and the biblical view is a theory, and our kids should be taught both in a balanced way,’ he said.” The Alliance is also behind this new “controversial theories” bill.
  • Bills directly targeting evolution were approved by the Florida House and Senate back in 2008. The only reason they didn’t become law was that the two versions needed to be reconciled but weren’t by the time the session ended.
  • Oh by the way, I wrote a book that’s all about Florida’s constant conflicts over evolution in the schools. I’m also a high school science teacher. I know what I’m talking about.

Yes, this is serious. We can’t let Florida follow Louisiana down the “academic freedom act” rabbit hole. Start contacting your local lawmakers now.