Ten days ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, in responding to a question about teaching creationism in public school classrooms, publicly confirmed what many of us have been saying for years (skip to 9:45): The true purpose of the controversial Louisiana Science Education Act is to provide a mechanism by which public schools may teach creationism and “intelligent design” as valid science. As I mentioned at the time, by explicitly linking the teaching of creationism and intelligent design with the Louisiana Science Education Act, Bobby Jindal unwittingly exposed the law as facially unconstitutional and violative of the Establishment Clause.
Jindal’s remarks, not surprisingly, sent off alarms at the Discovery Institute, a creationist lobbying organization that touts the Louisiana Science Education Act as one of its signature legislative accomplishments. Indeed, the LSEA was based, in large part, off of the Discovery Institute’s “model statute.” The blog Sensuous Curmudgeon has been tracking this from the very beginning, and they cut right to the chase. Quoting (bold mine):
The LSEA is the Discovery Institute’s crown jewel, so this admission by Jindal is one of the biggest public relations crises they’ve ever faced. Everyone has always known the real purpose of the LSEA (that’s why it was supported by all those Louisiana legislators who don’t know the difference between science and Voodoo), but the Discoveroids and their useful idiots have always claimed that the law is all about teaching science and it has nothing to do with creationism. Now, to the horror of the Discoveroids, Jindal has flat-out admitted that the law permits teaching creationism.
In response to Jindal’s comments connecting the teaching of creationism to the LSEA, the Discovery Institute published a baffling and hastily concocted blog post titled “Gotcha! Governor Jindal Avoids Lawyering on TV.” According to the Discovery Institute, when Bobby Jindal was speaking about the intent and purpose of a law that he personally signed, a law that his administration has defended in two separate Senate Education Committee meetings, he wasn’t speaking as the Governor, the man responsible for signing, enacting, and enforcing this law; according to the Discovery Institute, Bobby Jindal was speaking personally, as a politician.
Jindal may be an Ivy League educated Rhodes Scholar who turned down the opportunity to attend Yale Law School and who has spent the last fifteen years of his life at the highest levels of state and federal government, and yes, Jindal may have served two terms as a United States Congressman in the House of Representatives, which automatically qualifies him as one of the most powerful lawmakers in the country. But according to the Discovery Institute, Bobby Jindal’s comments about the intent of the law he signed shouldn’t be taken seriously, because, well, Bobby Jindal isn’t a lawyer. Quoting from the Discovery Institute (bold mine):
Like the critics of the LSEA, Governor Jindal is not a lawyer. He delivers no legal memo. However, unlike the critics of the LSEA, Governor Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar with a degree in biology, an experienced politician who knows what his role is and when to stick to it.
Teaching actual creationism in public schools is not constitutionally acceptable, if that’s even what he meant. It seems more likely that Jindal, like a lot of other people, used the term “creationism” imprecisely.
In brief, Jindal was speaking as a politician with an agenda, not as an interpreter of presently existing law.
I imagine the Discovery Institute thought they were doing Jindal a favor– covering for him– by suggesting that he had no idea what he was talking about, but instead, they managed to publish one of the most brutal (and patronizing) critiques ever written about Bobby Jindal, a direct refutation of the image that Jindal has spent nearly two decades attempting to cultivate– Jindal as the brilliant policy wonk, the wunderkind who is fluent and exhaustively informed on every single issue, encyclopedic and authoritative.
According to the Discovery Institute, Bobby Jindal doesn’t know what “creationism” means, and he doesn’t know the law. As vehemently as I disagree with Bobby Jindal on this and many other issues, I’m quite certain: He fully understands what creationism and intelligent design are, and he knows exactly what his law does. The only reason the Discovery Institute is in damage control mode is because they are aware Jindal admitted, openly and perhaps unintentionally, that the Louisiana Science Education Act is unconstitutional. Quoting again:
The TV interview (with Jindal) is not legislative history. It can’t be used by courts to construct the legislative intent behind the statute, for good or bad. Nor does it reveal how the law is actually being implemented.
Without question, the remarks of the Governor who signed the law and is responsible for implementing the law can be used by the courts. Sure, Jindal’s remarks may not speak to legislative history or legislative intent; they’re actually far more important: They indicate how he seeks to use the law. (I don’t know who the Discovery Institute thinks they’re fooling).
The Discovery Institute’s effectiveness relies entirely on its capacity for plausible deniability: They can’t explicitly promote a creationism law, because that’s unconstitutional. As they learned in 2005 in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District decision, they also can’t explicitly promote “intelligent design,” because that’s also unconstitutional. So, the Discovery Institute adapted, pardon the pun. Their model statute doesn’t explicitly promote creationism or intelligent design; it even contains a provision about how the law should not be construed to “promote any religious doctrine” or “discriminate” against religious beliefs, a provision that has been grossly misread by Jindal apologists like LSUS Professor Jeff Sadow, who, in a recent comment on NOLA.com, accused critics of never reading the LSEA and then incorrectly claimed that the LSEA actually prohibits the teaching of religion as science. To be clear, the LSEA was designed to facilitate the teaching of religion as science.
Just ask the guy who enacted it.