Beliefnet News

By Bill Walsh
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) Bowing to pressure, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has backed off an attempt to steer $100,000 to a Christian group that supports teaching religious and alternative theories of creation alongside evolution in science classrooms.
Vitter has taken heat from educational, religious and civil rights groups for earmarking money in a fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Louisiana Family Forum, “to develop a plan to promote better science education.”
The group has long challenged Darwinian theories explaining the origins of life, and the earmark was seen by some as an attempt to inject Christian religious doctrine into the classroom.
Vitter went to the Senate floor Wednesday (Oct. 17) and announced that “to avoid more hysterics,” he wanted to shift the money to science and computer labs in schools in Ouachita Parish. He said the earmark had been misconstrued.
“The project, which would develop a plan to promote better science-based education in Ouachita Parish by Louisiana Family Forum, has raised concerns among some that its intention was to mandate and push creationism within the public schools,” Vitter said.
“That is clearly not and never was the intent of the project, nor would it have been its effect.”
Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the two managers of the $605 billion bill, accepted Vitter’s proposal and said the money would be reallocated in House-Senate negotiations.
“This is great news for the children of Louisiana,” the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a prepared statement. “The federal courts have repeatedly held that teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional.”
Americans United was among more than 30 groups that banded together to call for the earmark to be stripped. The coalition also included the Anti-Defamation League, the American Association of School Administrators and the National Center for Science Education.
The Louisiana Family Forum was launched in Baton Rouge nine years ago by then-state Rep. Tony Perkins, who now serves as president of the Family Research Council, a national Christian advocacy group. The Family Forum’s stated mission is “to persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking.”
Gene Mills, the group’s executive director, said it is not the Family Forum’s intention to displace the teaching of evolution in science classrooms, only supplement it with other views.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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