How bad is this legislative session? This bad. Creationism, which gave Arkansas a bad name worldwide in the 1980s, has reared its ugly head four decades later.
Sponsors are led by Rep. Mary Bentley, who quoted the Christian Bible extensively Wednesday in support of legislation to discriminate against transgender children. “Abominations,” she described them. The second Great Commandment? Scissored out of Bentley’s Bible, I guess.
I won’t rewind the creation science controversy that put a half-eaten banana in the George-Fisher-cartoon hand of Frank White, the governor who backed mandatory creationism instruction in the schools, or the landmark federal court ruling by Judge William Overton that struck it down. Perhaps Bentley and Sen. Stubblefield believe making teaching of religion “permissive,” as opposed to making it mandatory, makes it legal. It does not, any more than it would be legal to say a public school teacher may, but is not required, to read Bible quotes to demonize LGBT children.
As Guy Lancaster wrote in an article recounting the creation-science case:
It surprised no one when Overton ruled, on Jan. 5, 1982, that Act 590 was unconstitutional. As expected, he based a large part of his ruling on the establishment clause of the First Amendment, finding that creationism was a religious doctrine that could not be supported by the state, and that no amount of public support justified its inclusion in educational curricula: “The application and content of First Amendment principles are not determined by public opinion polls or by a majority vote. Whether the proponents of Act 590 constitute the majority or the minority is quite irrelevant under a constitutional system of government. No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of government, of which the public schools are the most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others.”
Would Asa sign this legislation, too? Is there another ACLU payday in the offing?
PS: Bentley tried this in 2017, trying to allow both creationism and “intelligent design.” Religious conservatives, an observer said, have dropped any pretense of accommodating evolution and going full-on creationist.