Florida’s Anti-Evolution Bills: Sectarian Legislation?

IN THIS ARTICLE from the Florida Baptist Witness, we see hints of what may be an interesting pattern. Although those lawmakers who have been instrumental in starting this anti-evolution legislation all profess to be interested in academic freedom, we see that they also have something else in common. It may be significant, or it may be only a coincidence. I’ll put the clues in bold and you decide for yourself, gentle reader. Here’s the article: Storms faces attacks over evolution bill. A few excerpts:

Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Brandon) has been surprised by the personal attacks of those who oppose her bill to protect academic freedom for public school teachers and students addressing evolution.

It shouldn’t be all that surprising, Ronda. When one behaves like a fool, others are bound to notice it. Continuing:

The attacks illustrate the need for her bill, Storms said.

Golly, Ronda, why not add a provision to your “academic freedom” bill that outlaws free speech? That’ll take care of all those personal attacks.

With a wry grin, the Republican lawmaker added: “I usually send it back and say, ‘Thank you for impressing me with your rhetoric and proving your intelligence by resorting to personal attacks.’”

Smart girl, Ronda! Sock it to those pointy-headed intellectuals! Okay, now it gets serious:

Nevertheless, Storms, who is a member of First Baptist Church in Brandon, regards the attacks as a serious matter that is being ignored even when they are made in public on major daily newspaper Weblogs.

Enough teasing. The game’s afoot! Keep your eye on the ball now. We continue with the article:

… Sen. Daniel Webster (R-Winter Garden), majority leader in the Senate, [said]: “… I think this is going to go a long way in allowing flaws in whatever theory is presented to be pointed out without fear of retribution by someone over you.” Webster is a member of First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando.

Interesting. Perhaps the paper in which this article is published is merely pointing out a fact that would naturally be of interest to their readers. Or is there more to it? The article continues:

Three days after the Senate Judiciary Committee action, the House companion bill, HB 1483, sponsored by Rep. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla), was adopted in a radically amended version by the House Schools and Learning Council. Hays is a member of First Baptist Church in Umatilla.

Even more interesting. Well, it’s a large denomination. This could be of no significance. Moving along:

Testifying in favor of the amended bill was St. Johns County stay-at-home mom Kim Kendall, a leading critic of the new science standards’ approach to evolution.

Kendall, a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville and a former air traffic controller, told the council the amended Hays bill attempts to achieve what was narrowly rejected by the State Board of Education (SBOE) in February.

Anyway, the article concludes with some straight information:

As of April 14, it was not known when the bill will be considered on the House and the Senate floors. The 60-day legislative session is scheduled for adjournment May 2.

Let us not forget what triggered this legislative frenzy in Florida. It was the decision by Florida’s State Board of Education to improve education standards to require the teaching of evolution. During that decision-making process, Board member Donna Callaway was consistently opposed to evolution. Here’s an editorial dated 06 December 2007 from the Florida Baptist Witness: Sub-standard science standards. Excerpt:

Callaway told me that the Department of Education is getting a growing amount of correspondence from parents, teachers, local school board members and other citizens who are concerned about the narrow, pro-evolution standards.

[…]

A longtime, active member of First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Callaway added, “My hope is that there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue. As a SBOE [State Board of Education] member, I want those prayers. I want God to be part of this. …

I don’t know what to make of this. As I said at the start of this article, this may be only a coincidence. But Florida doesn’t need a political struggle over something that is — or looks like it might be — sectarian legislation. The Founders hoped to spare our nation from that peculiar form of nastiness.

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