Bad News, LA - Jindal Hops on Creationist Bandwagon

Bill Barrow of the (New Orleans) Times Picayune has the bad news:

Gov. Bobby Jindal attracted national attention and strongly worded advice about how he should deal with the Louisiana Science Education Act.

Jindal ignored those calling for a veto and this week signed the law that will allow local school boards to approve supplemental materials for public school science classes as they discuss evolution, cloning and global warming.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have the power to prohibit materials, though the bill does not spell out how state officials should go about policing local instructional practices. … Critics call it a back-door attempt to replay old battles about including biblical creationism or intelligent design in science curricula, a point defenders reject based on a clause that the law “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine . . . or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.”

In signing the bill, Jindal issued a brief statement that read in part: “I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and BESE to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children.”

Political observers said Jindal’s signature will please one of his key local constituencies: conservative Protestants in north Louisiana. Jindal’s long-term political challenge, they said, particularly if the Brown University biology graduate ever seeks national office, is not allowing his political image to be defined by such moves.

“It’s good politics if you are a conservative Republican politician,” said Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “That being said, not every place is Louisiana. . . . Certainly this is not going to do anything to endear Bobby Jindal to a majority of voters in places like California and Massachusetts and New York.”

Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat said: “The ideal candidate is one who has broad appeal. . . . To become president today, you can’t become isolated as the candidate of the religious right.”

Yet a cadre of scientists, national groups with a secular agenda, editorial writers and even Jindal’s college genetics professors suggested the bill could push Jindal toward that kind of identity.

Too bad Jindal didn’t heed Prof. Barbara Forrest’s appeak to veto the bill. Now it’s become a political hot potato, with possible implications come November.

The Louisiana Coalition for Science will have more coverage as events unfold, as will NCSE, which notes

… bill supporter David Tate, a member of the Livingston Parish School Board, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune (April 18, 2008), “I believe that both sides – the creationism side and the evolution side – should be presented and let students decide what they believe,” adding that the bill is needed because “teachers are scared to talk about” creationism.