NOW that Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, has disgraced himself and resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he’s been replaced by Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi. Why do we care?
According to this story from the Associated Press, Miss. governor tests 2012 GOP waters in Iowa, NH:
… Barbour prepares to ramp up his national profile this month with back-to-back trips to the early presidential voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
A former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Barbour has emerged as a leader of his party’s efforts to retool for the future. His allies believe he could be a formidable presidential contender if he chooses to play.
Okay, fine. Being head of the Governors Association is often viewed as a steppingstone to a Presidential race. It was seen as such when Mark Sanford held the job, and so it is now for Barbour.
But as we pointed out here, Sanford is a creationist, which — at least to us — puts his capacity to function as President in doubt. So now that Sanford has taken himself out of the national picture, the question naturally arises — is Haley Barbour also a creationist?
Information on this topic is surprisingly difficult to find. Barbour hasn’t made any statements about evolution that we’ve been able to find. However, there may be something of interest in this article from the archives of the National Center for Science Education (the NCSE) for 2006: “Origin of life” bill revived as amendment. It says:
On April 20 the Governor of Mississippi [Haley Barbour] signed into law House Bill 214. Although originally unrelated to evolution education, this bill was amended to include the following section in its final version:
SECTION 3. No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life.
The phrase “origin of life”, which is often used by creationists as a synonym for “evolution”, and especially the detailed legislative history of HB 214 strongly suggest that this section of the bill is intended to allow or encourage anti-evolution teaching in science classes.
On the surface it might seem that there would be little need for this section of HB 214 in its final form. Don’t teachers already have the ability to talk about and answer questions about the origin of life? Has anyone in Mississippi been prohibited from doing so?
There’s more to the NCSE article, but nothing specifically about Barbour — except that he signed the bill.
There was an article at the time which appeared in the Baptist Press: Miss. law allows creationism talk in classrooms. It said:
Mississippi students are free to discuss creationism in public schools now that Gov. Haley Barbour signed a new state law that says no limits may be placed on teachers and students when addressing the origin of life.
Local school officials told the Associated Press that they had not previously encountered disputes about what theories could be discussed in class, but they fear the new law is so vague that court challenges are almost certain to arise.
But Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs with Discovery Institute, noted that the law says nothing about creationism or Intelligent Design, and for that matter, students could raise questions in support of philosophical naturalism or atheism.
“This law simply protects the right of teachers to answer students’ questions, and I don’t see what’s so controversial about that,” Luskin told Baptist Press. “I think this is a great law. I think it allows both academic freedom for teachers and freedom of inquiry for students.”
So what can we make of this? Casey Luskin likes the law, and Haley Barbour signed it. For the moment, we’ll have to assume that Barbour is at least leaning toward creationism — and that’s not good. But 2012 is still a long way off.
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