Religion,  Science,  Stateside

The State of Louisiana versus science: the saga continues

Remember when Louisiana’s Republican governor Bobby Jindal mocked the very idea of monitoring volcanic activity?

And when Louisiana adopted a law that no public school teacher could be disciplined or fired for teaching an “alternative theory” (for example, creationism) to evolution?

And when Jindal’s administration tried to provide state-funded vouchers for students to attend schools that teach only creationism?

Now comes the news that a federal court has upheld a complaint of religious discrimination by a Buddhist student at the public Negreet High School in Sabine Parish, Louisiana.

The complaint alleged that a science teacher [!] at the school, Rita Roark, told her class, which C.C. [the Buddhist student] attended, that the Big Bang never happened and that God had created the universe 6,000 years ago. She allegedly refused to teach the theory of evolution to the class, saying it was a theory “stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God.”

“If evolution was real, it would still be happening,” Roark allegedly said. “Apes would be turning into humans today.”

The last question on a test administered by Roark allegedly asked: “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The correct answer was “Lord,” according to the complaint. But C.C. left the answer blank because he didn’t know the answer. Roark allegedly scolded C.C. in front of the rest of the class for not providing the correct response. After a second incident where C.C. was allegedly disparaged in front of the class by his teacher, C.C. told his mother about the incidents.

Roark also allegedly said during a social sciences class that Buddhism, C.C.’s religion, is “stupid.”

C.C.’s parents approached superintendent Sara Ebarb about their son’s allegations. Ebarb allegedly reminded the Lanes that they lived “in the Bible belt” and asked if C.C. “has to be raised Buddhist” or if he could “change” his religion. She eventually offered to transfer C.C. to another school 25 miles away, and he eventually was transferred by his parents to Many Junior High School.

The complaint also alleged that the school hung pictures of Jesus from its walls, ran Bible verses across its digital message board and held prayers before many school events.

Apparently Ms. Roark is still teaching “science” at the school. If I were a religious person, I would be praying for the schoolchildren of Louisiana.

On the brighter side, the Fox network and the National Geographic Channel are broadcasting a 13-episode series, Cosmos, based on serious science about the origin and nature of the universe, evolution, etc.

Update: Two examples of why we need better science education.