Letter: HB116 promotes creationism

Having failed twice before, Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, is promoting another stealth creationist bill, House Bill 116, which “provides relative to textbooks and other instructional materials for [public] elementary and secondary schools.”When Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly, expressed concern that HB116 could permit adoption of controversial books on evolution and other subjects (Advocate May 13), he was exactly right.

Hoffmann responded, “That is not what this is about. I guarantee you that is not my purpose in bringing this act.” The facts show otherwise. Enabling school boards to buy creationist books is precisely Hoffmann’s purpose, as I documented two years ago at the Louisiana Coalition for Science (LCFS) website: http://lasciencecoalition.org/2011/06/10/hb-580-another-stealth-creationism-bill/.

I was directly involved in the successful 2010 effort to persuade the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve new public school biology textbooks. As members of the Louisiana Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council, Hoffmann and Sen. Ben Nevers fought adoption of the books, which covered evolution. They were carrying water for the Louisiana Family Forum, which tried to block adoption of biology textbooks in 2002.

In 2006, as assistant superintendent of the Ouachita Parish school system, Hoffmann persuaded the school board to adopt a creationist “academic freedom” policy. In 2008, he steered the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) through the House of Representatives. After failing to block the textbooks in 2010, he introduced HB580 (2011), which would have undermined the Department of Education and BESE’s oversight of the textbook adoption process. In 2012, he tried to pass the identical HB277.

Like the earlier bills, HB116 would eliminate effective state oversight of textbook adoption, allowing school boards to purchase bogus materials with unlimited public dollars. Taxpayers could end up footing the bill for “Explore Evolution,” an intelligent design creationist textbook written and promoted by the Discovery Institute, which helped write the LSEA. The Central Community School System, which now also has an academic freedom policy (http://lasciencecoalition.org/2012/12/12/creationist-conniving-in-central-part-one/), could purchase young-earth creationist materials.

Additionally, social studies education could be targeted. Although Hoffmann’s bill requires school boards to “adopt and use” textbooks “that accurately reflect the contributions and achievements of people of differing races,” it also permits materials that are neither recommended by BESE nor reviewed by the Department of Education. Taxpayers could end up paying for materials like some being used in Texas, which teach children that racial diversity is traceable to “a curse placed on Noah’s son in the biblical story of the flood,” a myth that was used for centuries to justify racism (http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_religious_freedom_bible_courses).

Public dollars should not be used to support another Hoffmann-LFF scheme involving Louisiana schoolchildren. The Senate should make sure that HB116 meets the same fate as Hoffmann’s earlier bills.

Barbara Forrest